An amended version of a bill that would direct 25% of future profits from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to fund public education was voted down on the House floor on Thursday morning.
Republican representative Jim Bird’s bill to fund education through alcohol sales was rejected by the Utah House last week, but an amended version found its way to the floor Thursday morning.
Changes to House Bill 271 meant that instead of providing ongoing funding for schools, the scheme would be a one-time stopgap measure, which would take 25% of profits generated by DABC in 2014 to fund Utah’s public education system. Representative Bird said that his measure was now a way to mitigate the effects of automatic budget cuts at the federal level.
“We have had the issue with sequestration. That’s going to affect public education to the tune of somewhere between 6.4 million and 9 million dollars. So what this bill does is it tries to fill a plug for one year for 7.4 million for money that’s been earmarked from DABC.”
But several lawmakers rose to oppose the bill, citing their concerns about drawing money for Utah’s schoolchildren from the sale of alcohol. Democratic Representative Carol Moss, of Salt Lake, argued that the measure was the wrong approach for funding education.
“It’s fine with me if people drink alcohol but look at the damage it’s caused to thousands and thousands of lives. Maybe next we’ll look at cigarette tax and then hey, while we’re at it, why not have a lottery and pay for education with gambling money. It just bothers me and it just seems like the wrong direction to go.”
Republican Representative Stephen Handy of Layton said, "The word that comes to my mind when I think of this, although its well intentioned is the word ‘unseemly’ which means, ‘not appropriate and not proper.’ Thank you very much.”
Salt Lake Democrat Brian King voted in favor of the bill, but he argued that the legislature was reticent to really do what it takes to sufficiently solve Utah’s education funding shortfalls. King sponsored unsuccessful legislation this year that called for a growth in revenue from a hike in the state income tax.
“Is this a relatively crappy measure for public ed? Absolutely, I don’t like it. It’s inferior compared to what we should be doing. But we’re not doing what we should be doing, sadly. Please vote yes on this if you don’t do the right thing in other ways. At least vote yes on this.”
In the end House Bill 271 failed on a vote of 33 to 39.