WASHINGTON -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that he is considering some sweeping changes in the structure of the state's government if he is re-elected to a second term -- including the breakup of the two largest departments, transportation and health.
The governor said he thinks the port of Baltimore is so crucial to the state's economic well-being that it should be managed by an independent agency reporting to him. Currently, the Maryland Port Administration is one arm of the mammoth Department of Transportation.
He said he also is considering a move to make Baltimore-Washington International Airport a free-standing agency.
He talked, as well, about splitting the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene virtually in half -- by moving the administration of Medicaid out of the department and setting up a separate bureau for communicable diseases, which would deal with the problems of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Again, both new divisions would report to him.
Mark L. Wasserman, chief of Mr. Schaefer's programs staff, suggested that yesterday's proposals may only be the beginning of a broader restructuring of the administration based on the lessons Mr. Schaefer has learned during his first term in office.
"Should he be returned to office, the people of Maryland can count on, first, a period of introspection, then a flurry of action which will most likely result in a new look for some parts of state government from a governor who would have four years of experience under his belt," he said.
The governor acknowledged that he had mentioned before the possibility of setting the port up on its own, and done nothing about it, in part because of the difficulty in untangling the tax revenues that flow into the department.
"That was the old governor," Governor Schaefer said. "Maybe the new governor will look at it a little different, assuming I'm the new governor."
Mr. Schaefer oversaw some major changes when he went to Annapolis in 1987 -- including the formation of a separate Department of the Environment and the splitting off of the Juvenile Services Administration from the health department. He said yesterday that it is probably time for more changes, and that his second administration won't be the same as his first.
The governor seems to be approaching his expected second term almost in the frame of mind of a newcomer -- that is, expecting a major transition.
A week ago, after Mr. Schaefer handily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, he hinted that, if re-elected in November, the way of doing business in Annapolis would change.
"It'll be a new administration, not the same administration," he told well-wishers that evening. "New thoughts, new ideas, new approaches from people."
The governor was in Washington yesterday to attend a White House ceremony honoring "Blue Ribbon" elementary schools, including Trinity School in Ellicott City and seven others elsewhere in Maryland. After the ceremony, he began by talking about the new emphases he would like to see on education in Maryland.
These include getting children ready for first grade by the age of 6, increasing adult literacy efforts, cutting dropouts, cutting drug use and emphasizing math and science.
Most of these more directly concern Baltimore than any other school system in the state, although he took pains to point out that the small, rural, poor systems also need this kind of attention.
He wants, he said, "a total state reform for those areas that really need change."
The state education department is already moving on a program of fundamental "restructuring," a program the governor supports. said yesterday he favors a proposal by Joseph L. Shilling, the state superintendent, to spend $100 million in additional money on the state's eight poorest systems, with Baltimore getting about $76 million of that.
"But I've got to try to find the money," he said.
After talking about education, Mr. Schaefer brought up the changes he has in mind for transportation and health.
"The port is a major department," he said. "That ought to be set aside as an area of its own. The [transportation] department is just too big.
"The health department was an area where if you didn't have anywhere to put anything, you put it in the health department."
Moving Juvenile Services and environmental offices out of the department in 1987 helped, he said, but he believes it is still too unwieldy.
"Transportation and Health are way too big for any one person to manage," he said. Both departments have about 11,000 employees.
Former Gov. Marvin Mandel put several agencies together to create the single Department of Transportation, which this year has a budget of slightly more than $2 billion.
Richard H. Trainor, secretary of transportation, said yesterday that he knew the governor had been thinking of the changes but did not know how serious Mr. Schaefer was.
"The port and the airport are both really enterprise things," Mr. Trainor said, "So they could stand on their own."