By ANTONE CLARK
SALT LAKE CITY -- State lawmakers voted down a proposal to shift future profits from liquor sales to education, citing concerns the state shouldn't be in the business of encouraging drinking -- even if it profits education.
An initiative proposed by Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, would have diverted up to $7 million from liquor sales profits to education in 2014 and $14 million in 2015. The bill, HB 240, was defeated Thursday in the House on a vote of 24-47.
"This is really hard, especially when it's for our kids," Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-North Ogden, said. "This is a very worthy cause and goodness knows we need that money, but it's hard enough to profit from something that most of us and our constituents don't believe in. I don't believe we need to create incentives for that."
Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, worried that dedicating liquor profits to education would lead to unintended consequences down the road.
"Do you ever perceive the state would be encouraging people to drink, a booze for schools campaign?" McCay said
Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, pointed out the state has a growing number of earmarks in the budget process. He said the bill has laudable intentions, but lawmakers need to avoid putting more earmarks on the sales tax portion of the budget
Bird suggested the bill presented a chance to do something positive from alcohol.
"Here's an opportunity to put up to $7 million (in schools) without raising a dime of taxes. People won't have to do this, they choose to do it," Bird said.