Richard Piatt Reporting In Washington DC they call it 'realigning priorities'. But talk of that realignment is scaring hundreds of low-income people in Utah, people who depend on programs funded with Federal money.
It's not just poor or elderly people who are worried about these proposed cuts. The Utah Legislature is also watching and lobbying against a budget plan that could affect a lot of people. There isn't much that intimidates Lorraine Woolford. But she is both frightened and angry by how budget decisions in Washington could hurt her.
Lorraine Woolford, Concerned About Cuts: "Everything that low income seniors need is being cut. Low income seniors are getting hurt."
In fact, it isn't done yet. A huge fight is brewing between the House and Senate over different versions of next year's budget. Worst case scenario, Utah social programs could lose up to 200-million dollars over five years if a House version passes. That would mean cuts to health care, child care, food assistance, housing, and more, unless the state is able to make up the difference.
Jeff Fox, Utah Issues: “This fight will mean that very vulnerable people will have no safety net whatsoever.”
Some social service programs are safer than others. One example: Governor Huntsman signed a bill boosting funding for Children's Health Insurance program CHIP. A four-fold Federal match is safe from cuts, according to Senator Orrin Hatch. But Hatch says other program costs like Medicaid are rising too quickly, out of control growth that needs to be trimmed.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R) Utah: "Most of those programs are going up and up and up. And when they go up more than seven percent a year I don't think you can cry when the president says that's enough."
But for people like Lorraine who receive those benefits a mild panic is brewing.
Lorraine Woolford: "Why? Why are these cuts being made when we have money for everything else?"
One complication is that some of the programs up for cuts are mandatory, and that means the state might have to face some hard decisions about funding those programs and cutting something else.