Social service advocate groups want legislators to wait until they see the result of tax initiatives that may be on the ballot in November before deciding the fate of the $110 million surplus scheduled for discussion by the Legislature Wednesday.
Gov. Norm H. Bangerter has said he wants to put $10 million in education, $20 million in a rainy-day fund and return the remaining $80 million to taxpayers."The position we're taking is this is not a surplus," said Shirley Weathers, Utah Issues, during a public forum on health and social service budgets. "Surplus means `extra,' and there's no one who would contend this is extra."
The money is there, she said, because of budget cuts over recent years. "We support dedication of $15 million of the `surplus' to help restore cuts to vital human services programs."
During the same 31/2-hour meeting, where lawmakers, representatives from the governor's office and social service and health officials served as "listeners," speakers listed places they would like to see the money put - and where they do not want to see further cuts when the fiscal year '90 budget is prepared.
Nearly half the speakers asked for restoration of the Medicaid Adult Dental Program. The program was cut in April 1987 and now only only pays for temporary fillings and extractions.
Ruth Adams of Provo said she has only one damaged tooth on each side of her mouth. She desperately wants to keep those teeth, but doesn't see how she can. "I have no teeth to chew on," she said. "The things I'm supposed to eat are chewy, like apples, carrots, etc. I am sedentary, paralyzed from the armpits down. I'm grateful for Medicaid, but I have to have my teeth."
Chuck White, Utah Healthline, said most of the calls they receive concern adult dental care, but he also said there is a need for early-intervention medical care, which would be cheaper in the long run. Many medical problems are not covered until they become life-threatening and much more expensive, he said.
Other health concerns were nursing home residents, the homeless, a variety of unmet human needs and consumer education. Social service needs included funding for the self-sufficiency program, hiring additional staff in the Office of Community Operations, raising public assistance grant levels, services for the handicapped, food stamps, mental health services, circuit-breaker tax relief for the elderly and child care.
"We've seen cuts in every part of the program year after year," said Justin Stewart, who is active in several senior citizen groups. "To give the money back in face of having cut back . . . is extremely dangerous and imprudent. You do not authorize a refund just because some people promised it. You cannot do it in the face of the economic situation."