We cannot quarrel with President Carter’s resolve to do something about unnecessary spending and inflation – he deserves support in this.
But we think he erred badly in his choice of a place to make a stand – veto of the $10.2 billion public works bill, which the House sustained, lacking 53 votes for the two-thirds majority needed for an override.
The bill – of special interest to Herald readers – contained $52.5 million for the Central Utah Project for fiscal 1979.
In the words of Rep. Gunn McKay, D-Utah: “Of all the spending bills only one pays back anything to the federal treasury and this is public works.”
Indeed, the Central Utah Project – which doesn’t deserve the “pork barrel” label President Carter attached to the bill – is paid for mostly by the CUP water and power users on a voter-approved contract. Only about 10 to 15 percent of the cost will be paid by the government, this for certain recreational and other federal considerations.
In other words. the money the government allocates is largely in the nature of a loan – a far cry from a federal handout.
The CUP, this state’s No. 1 water development program, was approved in the 1950s under the Eisenhower administration and has had the support of five administrations until President Carter took office.
Early in his term it became obvious he doesn’t understand western water problems when he sought to slash the CUP and many other water developments. His veto indicates he still isn’t convinced.
House Speaker Thomas O’Neill seemed to put the picture in perspective with this comment: ”I think the President isn’t thinking about the future of America,” and adding that the water problem some day will be just as serious as the energy problem today.
Spending and inflation-wise, Carter’s veto of the fiscal 1979 appropriation will work in reverse insofar as local aspects of the CUP are concerned. Here is a project well-advanced, with nearly $200 million spent to date. Delaying completion will only send costs higher.
That’s an old story to Utahns already. The originally-projected costs have multiplied because of the smallness of appropriations and costly delays occasioned in part by environmentalist opposition.
How do things stand in the face of the Carter veto? Clarification still was needed as this was written. However, a spokesman at the office of Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) told The Herald that a continuing resolution passed by Congress enables the various agencies to spend in the interim, at last year’s level, beyond Sept. 30 when fiscal 1978 ended.
Last year’s Bonneville unit level was about $32 million. Money for the Uintah and Upalco units would be eliminated. The Jensen unit spent about $8 million last year and possibly could proceed since another $7 million was expected to finish the job.
Rep. McKay has said President Carter agreed on completion of the CUP and likely wouldn’t veto a rewritten bill so long as projects he wants killed are eliminated. We hope another try will be successful – and trust also that funds for other truly meritorious projects, vetoed by the President, will be restored.
Undoubtedly new legislation will be forthcoming, but it would seem problematical whether it could clear Congress before adjournment. Action might be delayed well into next year.
While the CUP generally has had good congressional support, it’s obvious that our Utah delegation has its work cut out in renewing that support and countering the Presidents effective lobbying which even persuaded six western governors to support his veto.
The urgent nature of the CUP needs to be “re-sold.” Certainly it is necessary to get the project back on the track after Wednesday’s setback.
Blowing Whistle Can Be Hazardous
Whistleblowers who work for the government aren’t the only members of this all-too-fare species who get shot down.
The Wall Street securities analyst who uncovered the Equity Funding Corp. scandal five years ago has been ordered punished by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
An SEC administrative law judge suspended Raymond Dirks from the brokerage business for 60 days for “selectively disseminated” information about Equity Funding. Apparently some investment companies managed to sell their shares before the fraud scandal broke.
“The government is attempting to punish the bearer of bad tidings,” Dirks claimed, noting the companies involved got off with light censures.
He vowed to “fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.”