The director of Social Services has prepared a "preliminary program hit list" based on projections that the department will lose at least $14 million if tax limitation initiatives pass in November.
But Norman G. Angus said the impact on social service programs could be closer to $30 million, because of federal matching dollars.Angus asked division heads to suggest the least painful cuts, assuming a 12 percent reduction, and based his projections on that information.
The resulting proposal would end welfare reform and self-sufficiency efforts, eliminate 455 full-time positions, reduce welfare grants (and thus jeopardize the state's prenatal program), eliminate the Emergency Work Program for singles and couples and reduce or cut out programs affecting hundreds of Utahns including those who are elderly, handicapped or low-income.
"Nobody is going to get off scot-free in this process," Angus said. "This represents a whole world of pain. The tax protesters have said the money could come from administrative costs, but my whole administrative budget is only $4 million. Unless lawmakers decided to get rid of entire divisions, we'd pretty much spread the pain around."
Three initiatives will be on the Nov. 8 general ballot. One initiative, if passed, would roll back the 1987 tax increase, restoring the sales, income, gasoline and cigarette taxes to 1986 levels. The second would cap property taxes on residential property at 0.75 percent of fair market value and other property at 1 percent of fair market value and would limit growth in state and local governments. The third would give a state income tax credit to parents whose children attend private schools.
Angus said he could get rid of Alcohol and Drug, the Division of Family Services and Aging and Adult Services and still have to make more cuts.
"I'm not throwing this out as a scare tactic. I'm just trying to show the magnitude of the cut," he said.
"Dollars are dollars," Shirley Weathers of Utah Issues, which opposes the initiatives, said. "Many of the cuts will result in the loss of federal matching funds. If you're looking to improve the state's economic situation, cutting off federal money that's coming into Utah and being spent here doesn't make sense. And that's without talking about the harm you do."
The cuts that would result from a tax initiative of this magnitude, she said, would "pull what little rug there is out from under people of all categories."
"The petition effort was directed to cut taxes, not programs," said Greg Beesley, Utah Tax Limitation Coalition. "We have never said we want to eliminate social services or any area. Only legislators can make specific cuts. We are just creating the pressure to give impetus to reducing the budget. Exactly where is someone else's problem."
Angus said the "least-painful" scenario will hurt thousands of Utahns, including some who support the initiative and participate in programs that may be cut, but don't see a connection between the two.
Reducing public assistance grants by 9 percent would mean that three-person families that receive $376 a month would be reduced to $342. "Grants haven't been increased since May of 1985, despite inflation," Bill Walsh, Utah Issues director, said. "To actually reduce the grants would be cruel beyond belief." The cut would effect more than 14,000 single-parent families on welfare and 2,000-plus disabled people who rely on general assistance grants.
A sampling of other affected programs in the projection:
-Unspecified Office of Community Operations sits would be closed and day care licensing for in-home day care would be eliminated. Welfare reform and self-sufficiency proj-ects, expected to save money eventually through reduction in the number of people on assistance, would be abandoned.
-Daycare slots for 465 low-income families would be cut out.
-The sex offender treatment unit at the Utah State Hospital would be eliminated from Mental Health, and transferred back to corrections. Angus said the move would increase cost to the state by increasing the prison population.
-Money "passed-through" to mental health and substance abuse programs would be reduced.
-Residential programs for the handicapped would be reduced by 240 clients and day treatment would no longer serve 158 clients. An additional 118 would have to leave the State Training School.
-Three youth detention facilities and two detention/shelter centers would close, and 14 beds in Salt Lake's detention facility would be dropped.
"Any cuts in Social Services hurt," Weathers said. "All the department does is assist people in need, and they are never exempt from cuts."