Counties, towns must share load, Schaefer warns State spending cuts to boost role of local governments

December 22, 1990|By Doug Birch | Doug Birch,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS — ANNAPOLIS-- Counties and towns may have to begin shouldering some of the load of the state's deficit-laden budget, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday.

At a State House breakfast with reporters, the governor pointed to Maryland's homeless program as one of a number where local officials could do more.

In three of the 23 counties -- Caroline, Somerset and Garrett -- the state pays for all of a small homeless program, he noted, TC while some other counties and Baltimore pay a large share of the cost of such services.

The city, the governor said, spends almost $700,000 annually on shelters and other services for the homeless, compared with $2.3 million contributed by the state.

"There's two theories on that," he said. "One, that there's no homeless [in counties that don't contribute to such programs], and I can't believe that. Or, they let the homeless fend for themselves. We're going to revise that -- revise their thinking."

Other programs that local governments should contribute more toward, he said, are tourism, parkland acquisition and juvenile services.

The Department of Juvenile Services has already moved to stop $1 million in funding as of Feb. 1 for the state's 21 Youth Service bureaus, which provide counseling and training programs for troubled children and their families.

The governor said he plans to put the finishing touches in the next few days on a package of cuts in the fiscal 1991 budget, the state's current spending plan, totaling $243 million. Earlier, the state slashed $180 million in spending.

He said that he will order "very painful" spending reductions, and suggested that he wanted local governments to share some of that pain.

To avert the need for some cuts, the governor said he was looking closely at increasing the workweek for most state employees from 35 1/2 hours to 40 hours. That, he said, would make it easier to reduce the size of the state's 97,279-employee work force through attrition.

The expanded workweek could be ordered by the governor without formal legislative approval.

Governor Schaefer did not say he planned to cut off or reduce aid for the homeless in those counties that do not contribute. But he suggested his efforts might go beyond friendly persuasion.

"What I'm saying is, that an area that is heartless enough that they put nothing in for their homeless, I want them to put in some money if they expect us [to]," he said.

Raquel Sanudo, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said county governments are having the same fiscal problems as the state and shouldn't be asked to do more with less.

"It's not that we have excess revenue to transfer the responsibility that has been historically state government's responsibility," she said. "It's just an added burden."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said the legislature would prefer that the governor trim spending elsewhere -- particularly on programs unpopular with the General Assembly -- "rather than shift the burden."

"I think the sense of the General Assembly is that the buck has got to stop at the state for most programs," he said. "The counties don't have the resources to pick up the cost of some programs, such as those for the homeless."

Somerset County receives $7,000 a year from the state for the homeless but spends none of its own money. Most of the funds are used to help families forced out of their homes by fires or other calamities, said Charles E. Massey, county administrator.

The county isn't contributing, he said, "because we have not been in that posture where we felt it was needed."

The governor also told reporters he will not include revenue from any new taxes in next year's budget -- for fiscal 1992 -- that he will present shortly after the General Assembly convenes Jan. 9. Instead, he said, he would merely lay out the "facts" -- presumably, the reports of the Linowes commission on state taxation, the 2020 Commission on channeling state growth, the gas tax panel, and other data -- and let legislators make up their own minds.

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