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Plan to help fund schools with liquor money fails

Published March 7, 2013 5:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

House lawmakers voted down a bill that would have earmarked a portion of Utah's liquor sales to pay for public education, citing concerns about relying on alcohol consumption to teach Utah children.

"Do you really want [to say] 'Not a drop. We don't want our kids to drink,' but now education funding depends on alcohol?" asked Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper. "The day we start taking money wherever we can find it and run it through a blender and say the ends justify the means is a huge compromise of principle."

HB271, sponsored by Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, would have earmarked a quarter of the growth in liquor sales to public education — an estimated $7.5 million in 2014 and $14.5 million the following year.

Bird acknowledged it was an unconventional way to fund education, but said the schools need the money.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said it was a "shame" the state was looking at liquor revenues for schools. "It just bothers me."

"It's just, to me, a way of getting out of funding [schools] properly," she said.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, was more blunt.

"Is this a relatively crappy funding measure for public education? Absolutely. I don't like it," he said. "It's inferior to what we should be doing. But we're not doing what we should be doing."

Bird's bill failed, 33-39. He could still try to revive it this session if he can recruit enough supporters.