Gov. Norm Bangerter said the state is in no position to help Utahns dependent on federally funded programs or those who will be furloughed from their jobs if the president orders automatic spending cuts Monday.
"I don't think we're in a position to pick up the federal tab," Bangerter said during his monthly press conference televised on KUED. "It's painful, but it's time they did the kinds of things we have to do on an annual basis."The state Constitution prohibits Utah lawmakers from approving budgets that call for more money to be spent than is expected to be raised through taxes and other revenue sources.
While not required to pass balanced budgets, Congress is operating under the Gramm-Rudman law, which mandates approximately a $100 billion cut in spending in the 1991 budget year that begins Monday.
If congressional leaders have not come up with an acceptable budget by then, federal agencies must begin reducing expenses by about one-third through cutting services and furloughing employees nationwide.
Bangerter said most state programs will be affected, at least to some degree. But because the state's share of many federal programs has increased significantly in recent years, Utah can't afford to make up the difference.
"We don't have a plan. We're just going to have to accept it," he said.
The governor noted that when the state suffered an economic downturn in the 1980s, he cut programs and raised taxes. He advised Congress to look at taking similar action.
"I would be very disappointed if they just discussed taxes and didn't cut programs," Bangerter said. "They shouldn't reject (raising taxes) as part of the solution. But if that's the only solution, that's wrong."The governor said he liked one option considered by the U.S. Senate, reducing the salaries of government workers by one-third instead of sending them home without any pay.
Bangerter also said during the KUED press conference that the Legislature will have an additional $100 million to spend in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 1991.
That money will come from a surplus left over from the fiscal year that ended July 1, 1990, and what is expected to accumulate during the current budget year.
But the governor said the extra money may not be enough to cover increases due to population growth and inflation in providing even current levels of services.
"We're not awash in money as some people would have you believe," Bangerter said, a reference to supporters of the initiative to take the sales tax off food. Bangerter opposes the initiative.