45 state jobs, $52.7 million slashed in deficit reduction

January 03, 1991|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff Melody Simmons contributed to this story.

The Board of Public Works has trimmed $52.7 million from the state budget, reducing aid to local governments and eliminating 45 government jobs, as part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's deficit-reduction plan.

Thirty-six meat and poultry inspectors will be out of a job by spring, while six vacant positions in the Maryland Department of Agriculture will be eliminated. The federal government, however, expected to take over the inspection program.

Also, nine computer workers in the Maryland Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning will lose their jobs in four weeks.

The public works board -- the governor, comptroller and treasurer -- approved those measures yesterday in the latest round of cuts to make up for a projected budget shortfall of $423 million.

Schaefer last Friday proposed to slash almost $243 million from the state budget by reducing nearly every state agency's budget. His package includes deep cuts for higher education and construction projects, such as a golf course in Western Maryland and beach replenishment in Ocean City.

The General Assembly will be faced with making the bulk of those cuts during the 90-day session that begins Wednesday, a task for which legislative leaders have pledged their cooperation, said Charles L. Benton Jr., secretary of budget and fiscal planning.

Schaefer said he was "amazed" by an outcry from community colleges against a $6.1 million reduction in state aid since they have not been as hard hit by budget cuts as other institutions and agencies.

The board yesterday cut almost $15.7 million in state aid to every Maryland county and Baltimore for community colleges, libraries, police and other grants.

Schaefer, Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein all said they had been lobbied by community college officials since the 5 percent cuts were proposed Friday.

Edward Mallick Jr., dean of administration at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, said his school faces "a very significant cut" of $570,000. Employees may have to take brief unpaid furloughs to make up for the loss in state aid, he said. The college also is exploring having administrators teach one course without pay this spring to save on salaries of part-time instructors, Mallick said.

But Jean E. Hunter, executive director of the Maryland State Board for Community Colleges, downplayed dissatisfaction last night over the $6.1 million cut from the colleges' collective budget of $111.4 million.

The cut will mean an average cut of 7 percent across-the-board )) for all 17 community colleges, Hunter said. Each president knew that cuts were imminent because negotiations have been going on with state budget officials since December, she said.

"Community colleges were hit less than other state agencies and, to be frank, we fully expected to be part of the group needed to address the shortfall with cuts," Hunter said. "We are willing to do our part, and we feel the $6.1 million is totally reasonable."

Tuition increases to make up for the cuts will be "an absolute last resort," Hunter said.

"We are going to maintain services and programs and look at some creative and innovative things to help us adjust our budgets," she said.

Hunter said the cuts would take effect March 1.

Budget analysts said Schaefer's latest round of cuts will reduce state spending sharply while avoiding massive layoffs. Several weeks ago, Schaefer had proposed laying off about 1,800 state workers, but he later reversed himself.

The governor and Benton said yesterday the state and national economic downturn led to Maryland's projected $423 million deficit. In November, Schaefer reduced state spending by $176 million.

Schaefer said he tried to look at the effect the cuts would have on people. "No one wants to hurt people. This is just the beginning," he said.

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