Thursday, July 17, 2014

Survey Response: Alain Balmanno, Candidate for Utah House 32

Alain Balmanno
Candidates for the November 2014 elections were given the opportunity to respond to a few questions relating to autism. The following responses are from Alain Balmanno, candidate for Utah House District 32.

Insurance Coverage:   SB57 was passed in the 2014 legislative session. It goes into effect on January 1, 2016, and among other things, will require individual and large group plans to cover a limited amount of behavioral therapy for autistic children through age 9. The bill has a sunset clause which will cause it to expire on January 1, 2019. 

Would you support renewal or expansion of SB57 if the costs prove to be manageable?

Alain Balmanno:   
Yes. Behavioral therapy has shown great promise for persons with autism. The manageable part of the question will be the difficult part.

WanderingWandering (or elopement) is an issue that affects around half of children with ASD, as well as many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are substantial costs involved with search efforts that often require emergency personnel. There are also promising technologies, such as smartphones, GPS, and Bluetooth, which can help with tracking these individuals. 

 Would you support efforts to:
  • better understand the extent of the wandering problem in Utah
  • promote training for emergency personnel
  • identify technological solutions and help make them affordable for caregivers
Alain Balmanno Yes. We need to have information in order to be able to legislate properly. It is reasonable to study issues and problems so we can understand the need and the available solutions.

Education: Education is a priority for many UAC members. Kids on the spectrum often require special education resources.

What do you see as the current state of the Utah education system, including Special Ed, and what steps would you support to improve it?

Alain Balmanno:   
The problem with education funding in Utah is not an education issue. It is the anti-government, anti-tax philosophy which dominates our public discourse and holds sway in the Legislature. The Legislature has artificially created the funding shortfall for education by driving down public income. It is time to properly fund education. First, we need to increase extraction taxes to match other states in the intermountain west. Utah charges the lowest amount of fees for the natural resources companies take out of our ground, far less than North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado or New Mexico. These low fees are unfair to Utah children. Second, we need to end corporate tax breaks for established companies (for example the tax break for Salt Lake hotels passed a few years ago). Third, we need to return our income tax rates to more reasonable levels in order to fund education properly. I suggest 5% for low income to $50,000, 5.5% for incomes from $50,000 to $100,000, 6% for incomes from $100,000 to $150,000, and 7% for incomes over $200,000. The income from these policies should go to reducing classroom size, additional aides and teachers, and competitive salaries for teachers, not for administrative costs. This would benefit children with special needs.

Housing and Employment: When autistic people transition out of the public school system, many of them need help with housing and employment. According to the 2013 Annual Report of the Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities, Over 5,000 Utahns received services, and 80% of them had an intellectual disability. Another 1,892 Utahns are on the waiting list.

Would you support steps to improve housing and employment opportunities for individuals with autism?

Alain Balmanno:  
Yes. Let’s calculate what we need and find ways to fund it. Waiting lists don’t help people.