May 19, 2010
On Tuesday, members of the Utah Legislature's top budget committee reassured citizens that the state will continue to participate in a joint state/federal program that provides low-income HIV/AIDS patients with treatment and care services.
During its April meeting, the Executive Appropriations Committee deferred the routine approval process for the state's Ryan White CARE Act application, citing the need for more information about how the program is funded and how the federal health care overhaul would affect it. Most Utah lawmakers oppose the federal reform.
Despite media reports to the contrary, the move was not politically motivated and lawmakers were not putting HIV/AIDS patients' health in jeopardy, said Rep. Ron Bigelow (R-West Valley), chair of the committee. "Everyone left the meeting with that understanding," said Bigelow, adding that the postponement was a sincere attempt to obtain solid information about how Ryan White funding is used.
Senate President and committee member Michael Waddoups (R-Taylorsville) said his reason for voicing initial concerns about the funding was to ensure Utah is getting the most out of its $1.4 million contribution to the fund. Ryan White provides $3 for every $1 in state money.
Bigelow noted the confusion exposes the problems inherent in having a part-time Legislature that relies on full-time state agencies to keep lawmakers informed. "This highlights a lesson learned," he said. Staff members told the committee they are streamlining the process so lawmakers have a clearer picture of joint expenditures like Ryan White, Medicaid, and other major programs in the state budget.