Calling it a "fiscal emergency in human services and health," members of an appropriations panel Monday refused to cut $15.4 million from its budget recommendations.
"I think we just have to go after it," said Sen. John Holmgren, R-Bear River City, who is co-chairman of the Human Services and Health Appropriations Subcommittee.The committee last week voted to increase health and human service base budgets by $11.2 million in general funds monies over the legislative fiscal analyst's proposal. Monday, members of the committee were asked to figure a budget $4.2 million below the analyst's proposal.
Most of expanded budget would be used for the health-care programs that protect the very poorest, most frail Utahns. People who have life-threatening diseases and live well below poverty can receive help from the Medically Needy program. People who receive Aid to Families With Dependent Children, are blind, elderly or disabled and meet stringent income guidelines can participate in Medicaid, which draws down $3 federal for every $1 Utah spends.
The extra base budget funds would also be used to cover a fast-growing caseload in welfare programs that are mandatory. Cindy Haag, director of the Office of Family Support, said that without funds to cover program growth, grants would have to be cut. And if they were cut below the 1985 level, Utah would lose its Medicaid matching funds. A one-person household receives $233 a month, which would be reduced to $217. A family of three, which now receives $402, would have to live on $376 a month. Those grant cuts would have to be made if the fiscal analyst's budget is accepted.
The services most vulnerable to cuts are grant levels, low-income health programs, long-term care, mental health, adult dental services, rural crisis nurseries and early-intervention programs for children with disabilities.
Members of the Human Services Coalition had earlier identified more than $68 million in human service programs. The $11.2 million added to the base budget included the most desperate needs, according to the lawmakers.
"We've done this in the past; cutting essential programs and then seeing them on the last night finding money not for human needs," said Rep. Joanne R. Milner, D-Salt Lake. "If they (executive appropriation) insist on these cuts, the blood will be on their hands."