(KCPW News) A prominent states’ rights lawmaker is calling on his colleagues at the Utah Capitol to vote against accepting $101 million dollars in federal funds to preserve teacher jobs. The money is the subject of today’s special session of the Utah Legislature. But Speaker of the House David Clark says according to the Attorney General’s office, there is a “zero-to-none” chance of refusing the cash.
“Here we are today saying alright,” Clark says, “if we can’t win that fight, if everybody is telling us that we don’t have an option, as distasteful as it is, and I will tell you personally from my standpoint as I conduct this Special Session tomorrow, I’m going to hold my nose and support this resolution.”
Clark says doing so will retain what little control the state has to determine how the money is spent. Legislative leadership and the State Office of Education want to use half the money to fill an education budget shortfall. The rest will be distributed to school districts, which have been instructed to use the funds on one-time expenditures or programs that can be scaled back once it’s been spent.
Representative Carl Wimmer is leading the charge against the funding, calling it an unprecedented takeover of state legislatures by Congress. And he rejects the assertion that the state will have a degree of flexibility in how it is spent.
“We’re using all sorts of mental acrobats to justify in our mind that the federal government has given us some type of control over this, but they really haven’t,” Wimmer says. “They have simply given us the liberty and freedom to do precisely and exactly what they have ordered us to do. And that is not right.”
Wimmer believes there is enough legal precedent to allow the state to refuse the money. And while taking the federal government to court would cost money, he believes it would be worth the fight.