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Lawmakers beef up funding for the poor

SHARE Lawmakers beef up funding for the poor

Utah's poor received $225,000 more today as the Legislature moved to make final budget adjustments for the current fiscal year.

As the House voted on HB1 — the main budget bill that resolves a $202 million shortfall — Republicans decided to put $300,000 more back into cuts already made.

Of that, the state Department of Human Services gets $225,000 and Gov. Mike Leavitt's homeland security operation gets $75,000.

Rep. Jeff Alexander, R-Provo, House budget chairman, said some people have lost sight of the fact that even with the cuts, state budgets still grew this year. In fact, he said, the human services budgets grew by $29 million.

"Many feel that strides have not been made. But we have," Alexander said.

Leavitt wanted even more money to go to a number of programs, including security. But his aides say he will not use his line-item budget veto on HB1.

Robin Arnold-Williams, human services director, said the money restores most of the $1.5 million the Legislature's top budget committee returned to the department last week.

About $100,000 will help shore up significant cuts in administration. About $50,000 will go for state hospital utilities, $25,000 for Families And Communities Together, a locally based community services coordinating program, and $50,000 will go to restore cuts in the Division of Child and Family Services.

The additional money will mean the department won't have to implement a plan to lay off any employees, Arnold-Williams said.

"We're keeping in mind that these are one-time Band-Aids and that these same cuts will be there when we deal with the 2003 budget," she said.

House Democrats tried to put about $3 million more from I-15 construction savings, which Republicans have already tapped, into the bill, the money going to remove the enrollment cap on the CHIP child health insurance program, Meals on Wheels for the elderly and drug courts, which are overcrowded.

Republicans defeated the Democratic attempt, saying no more "one-time" source funds, like the road savings, should be pumped into the budget.

E-MAIL: jthalman@desnews.com