Gov. William Donald Schaefer, after meeting with legislative leaders, today announced there would be no layoffs of state workers in the near future.
"We now find that it is possible by melding the plan developed by the governor with certain portions of the plan developed by the [General Assembly] leadership to contain the 1991 shortfall without layoffs at this time," said a statement released this afternoon by Schaefer.
Schaefer had proposed last week laying off as many as 1,800 state workers to reduce the state's $243 million budget deficit. As recently as Wednesday, he had rejected many other options proposed by legislators and called layoffs inevitable.
Schaefer apparently changed his mind after meeting today with House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., both of whom have said layoffs were avoidable.
Although no details were available, the governor is willing to consider "all options" presented earlier this week by legislative leaders, according to Paul E. Schurick, Schaefer's press secretary.
That includes such suggestions as furloughing employees or cutting salaries, proposals Schaefer said were unacceptable Wednesday, Schurick said.
"At this point, everything on all of the lists is negotiable," he said.
Schaefer has instructed his budget secretary, Charles L. Benton Jr., to work with legislative leaders and their analysts to come up with a budget-cutting plan that avoids layoffs, Schurick said.
Furloughing all state employees one day a month for the remaining six months in the budget year would save the state about $37 million. Legislators also proposed cutting some projects favored by the governor, including the Rocky Gap State Park golf course, near Cumberland. That would save the state about $10 million.
Besides layoffs, Schaefer has proposed raiding the state's savings and cutting state programs to balance the budget.
Schaefer imposed a first round of budget cuts last month, trimming about $176 million from the state's $11.7 billion budget. Declining tax revenues over the past several months have forced a new retrenchment.