WASHINGTON -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that spending cuts scheduled to take effect Monday unless a federal budget accord is reached would "wreak havoc" in Maryland by curbing pay for federal workers, limiting vaccinations for infants and halting airline flights.
"The deep, across-the-board cuts will wreak havoc on our economy, undermine programs designed to help the most vulnerable people in our state and cause massive disruptions in government services," the governor said in a letter to Maryland's congressional delegation. "I am writing to urge you to do everything in your power to prevent sequestration from taking effect."
Unless Congress and the Bush administration reach an accord by Monday on how to cut the deficit by $50 billion, the cuts mandated by the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget law will take effect.
The cuts, averaging 32 percent for federal agencies, would affect many of the 130,000 federal workers in Maryland, who, like other federal workers, could be furloughed two days a week without pay.
Mr. Schaefer said that if the cuts took effect, Maryland would lose more than $7 million for energyassistance for low-income people, leaving 24,000 poor families without help to pay heating bills this winter.
The state also would lose $900,000 for vaccinations to infants and children, the cost of about 48,000 doses of measles, polio and rubella vaccines. Education programs also would be hit, the governor said, including $27 million for assistance to disadvantaged students and $2 million in grants under the Drug-Free Schools Act.
At the same time, furloughs of air traffic controllers would create "massive disruptions" at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and cuts in sewer grants would "prevent us meeting the environmental goals of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup."
Meanwhile, some 1,500 chanting and placard-carrying government workers, most of them from Baltimore, rallied at the Capitol yesterday as the budget stalemate continued, bringing closer the possibility of furloughs as early as Monday.
"They say furlough, we say hell no!" chanted the workers, holding aloft signs that read, "Furlough Bush First" and "Dire Straits Oct. 1."
About two-thirds of the protesting federal workers came to the noontime rally in 20 buses from the Social Security Administration and Health Care Financing Administration in Woodlawn.
A total of 18,000 workers from those agencies have received furlough notices, said Joe Flynn, vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1923.
"What we're faced with here is nothing more than hardball gutter politics," Mr. Flynn told the boisterous crowd.
Members of the Maryland congressional delegation told the sea of federal employees they would fight to prevent furloughs.
"We're going to do everything we can to make sure such furloughs don't happen," Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, said to cheers.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., was drowned out by shouting when she told the crowd that she had just voted for an amendment to an unrelated bill that would extend any proposed pay cuts to Congress and the executive branch. That measure passed the Senate 96-1.
"There should be no furloughs, no cuts in pay . . . for federal employees," the Maryland senator said. "Let's cut the MX missile instead of GS salaries."
Michelle Rutah, a 27-year-old mother of three and a clerk typist at Social Security headquarters in Woodlawn, stood nearby and said the mood among her colleagues is "very tense, very upset." The sign she carried asked, "Will Gramm Rudman and Hollings Feed My Family?"
"People are very concerned" about possible furloughs, said Marshall Warren, 39, of Baltimore, a records clerk for Social Security, as he listened to the speakers.
"A lot of them have families," said Mr. Warren, who is single. "It will be hard to put food on the table."