Legislative Chopping Block, 2011!

Information from the compendium of budget information for the 2011 general session. Le.utah.gov Illustration by Phil Jackson

It’s that time of the year again – when the ghouls and goblins representing citizens of this great state assemble on Capitol Hill and decide what slashes they’re going to make to our state budget.

This year Utah’s budget has been decreased from a whopping 13.2 billion last year to a relatively slimmer 11.9 billion this year.  While fiscal conservatives will be pleased to know that we are spending less in 2011, a closer examination of which programs will be tightening their proverbial belts has some citizens concerned.

Utah lawmakers are closing in on severe spending reductions in social services, one of which is a lofty $5.2 million decrease in investigations of instances of domestic violence where children are present. Meaning that a beaten child will really have to shine if the cops are going to haul in his dad.  We have to prioritize now.

GOP leadership on Capitol Hill have asked the Joint Social Services Appropriation subcommittee to cut 7 percent total from their budget – an estimated 48 million dollars.  Effectively this means that the state is cutting a lot of funding that would normally go to Disability Services, depriving many disabled citizens of the programs and aid that allow them to live in a safe and dignified manner. It’s good to know that Utah’s Republican majority is maintaining traditional values – in this case, a schoolyard-style bullying of those who cannot defend themselves.

“The economy,” of course, is to blame, but the amounts and areas of adjustments are under scrutiny in Salt Lake City. According to ksl.com, one revealed proposal had the government saving $16 million by closing down a local prison housing unit – and releasing over 800 inmates early in the process.

The aforementioned proposals are not the only case of savings-over-safety. An estimated $2 million could be cut from the Department Alcoholic Beverage Control. That cut would coincide with others pertaining to Utah Highway Patrol Troopers, leaving more drunk drivers on the road with fewer officers to regulate them.

Social services as a target of financial reduction, potentially leaves citizens already low on means scrambling for answers. The proposed cut of over $300 million would affect the homeless and handicapped the hardest, according to a report from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Such a cut could end up being a double-edged sword. The reduction would take away specially provided employment opportunities, leaving those with disabilities and handicaps to rely on taxpayer dollars.

The end result would likely see the government saving money, the needy short on money, and citizen spending money to make up for the difference.
In the end, it appears to be a win-lose-lose situation at best, a perfect shutout at worst.

Utah’s Budget: The difference from last year
Total
2010: $13.2 billion
2011: $11.9 billion
Domestic violence GFR
$1.08 million cut
State Parks
$3 million cut
Higher education
$20.9 million cut
Homeless Trust
$117,500 cut
Public Education
$1.7 million cut
Legislature
$348,000 cut
Disabilities services
$381,900 cut
Critical Highway Needs
$176.6 million
Social Services
47 million general budget cut
Mental Health
$2 million cut from children and adults not on Medicade
Transportation
More than $100 million cut

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