Short takes on the news
Leave Red Zones alone • The staff at the Office of the Legislative Auditor General does valuable work for the Utah Legislature and the taxpayers by keeping a sharp eye, and a sharp pencil, on various activities of government. But, in coming down hard on the University of Utah's Red Zone stores, auditors are making recommendations that could do the state more harm than good. The Red Zone stores market licensed Ute athletic merchandise, on campus and in retail centers in Sandy, Layton and West Jordan. And auditors are technically correct to note that those stores are arguably in violation of U. and state Board of Regents policy that discourages university operations from competing with private business. But licensed gear is a significant source of income for the U. and many other big-time universities. Red Zone recorded sales of nearly $2 million in fiscal year 2012. And that matters in an age when this state, along with many others, fails to keep up with rising costs and rising enrollments at their institutions of higher learning. Red Zone stores serve the university, its students and its fans. Legislative auditors, and the Legislature, should leave them alone.
Hunting for Big Game Forever • The fact that it may be very difficult indeed for the Office of the Legislative Auditor General to figure out how the group called Big Game Forever has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars is the best argument for such an audit to take place. Legislative leaders ordered just such an audit Monday. They are rightfully concerned that a shadowy group ostensibly formed to get the wolf off the federal endangered species list and, supposedly, out of Utah has been fighting battles that are already won and opposing threats that don't exist. Auditors said the probe would be difficult because BGF has a habit of tossing all its money into a single pot and not itemizing whose dollar went for what activity. All the more reason the investigation is called for.
Sequester bites Ogden • A temporary cutback in hours for civilian employees at Hill Air Force Base is expected to take some $34 million in wages out of the local economy between now and late September. It is all part of the $37 billion the Pentagon is supposed to cut from its budget due to the infamous sequester, the budget-cutting blunderbuss that was pulled out when Congress failed to do its most basic and important job: Fund the government. U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, understandably, has protested that the cuts are poorly targeted and based on politics rather than logic. Maybe. But it is just one more example of how federal spending is not poured into a black hole, but ripples through the economy to the benefit of whole communities. That's true at military installations. And for other government functions, too.