Budget shortfalls and increased Medicaid funding concern Sen. Hillyard

It is going to be another tough year for the Utah Legislature. That word from State Senator Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who has a major job of coming up with a budget as co-chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee. On KVNU’s Crosstalk Show Wednesday, Hillyard says right now revenues are $6 million on the positive side but the real budget figures won’t be available until February. Hillyard says the budget process has already begun. “The first challenge we have is we have $312 million of ongoing programs funded with one-time money,” Hillyard explained. “So if we don’t replace that money in next year’s budget, find sources for that, there will be $312 million cut. Some of these funds are really intended one time to get us through, so that won’t be a problem. We haven’t narrowed that out yet. “But $312 million is a lot of money. I can tell you, knowing what the new revenue projections are, they won’t be that much. We’ve got to struggle with that issue first in the 2012 budget.” He says it looks like projections are a little better than last year but there are some major concerns. He says one is Medicaid, both the fact that the cost has grown and also the extra cost that comes from more people qualifying. “The federal government has tried to placate that, somewhat, with us by giving us more one-time money to get us through a year, or next year,” Hillyard continued. “We’re holding our breath. “Once those things expand and people let their own health insurance go, get relying on the government program, it just escalates. We figure that this budget, the Health and Human Service budget, that these federal mandates are going to balloon to where we really won’t be able to afford them.” Hillyard says the state has to balance its budget and, unfortunately, to do that could mean cutting some programs that people don’t want to cut or raising taxes, but most people do not want that to happen. Hillyard says if there is more money some people will want it to go to the rainy day fund, which has been greatly diminished during the recession. Others want to fund projects that have been or are about to be cut. If revenue is down there will probably be talk about raising taxes, raising fees or taking more money from the rainy day fund.

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