Projected shortfall may require bigger cuts State worker layoffs may be unavoidable.

February 22, 1991

Some legislative leaders already are predicting that furloughs and layoffs may be necessary to control the state budget after the Board of Revenue Estimates releases its latest revenue projections on Monday.

State House sources said additional cuts totaling between $75 million and $110 million may be required in the current year's budget, bringing the state's overall shortfall to almost half a billion dollars. Sources also said about $120 million will have to be cut from Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed $11.6 billion budget for the 1992 fiscal year.

In preparation for the revenue board's announcement, the governor's budget staff is scheduled to meet Saturday to find places to trim an already lean budget.

At a House subcommittee hearing he visited briefly yesterday, Schaefer told lawmakers the newest round of budget cuts will be painful.

"You're going to hear a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when the next big hit comes, and it's coming," he said. "I'm really worried, really worried."

Legislators, trying to keep the budget balanced, say the state may have to raise taxes, lay off or furlough state employees or do a combination of both.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, said he and other legislators will work with the Schaefer administration on the budget this weekend. However, Mitchell said he has not changed his stance against new taxes.

"My plan is still to hold fast on tax increases," he said yesterday.

OPEN AND SHUT

Governor Schaefer opposes any attempt to strengthen Maryland's open meetings law even though he believes in open meetings, an aide said yesterday.

The testimony from Bruce P. Martin, a member of Schaefer's legislative staff, came during a hearing on a bill that would make it more difficult for public bodies to conduct business in private.

"This bill seeks to solve a problem which isn't there," Martin told members of the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee.

The current law "works in the vast majority of cases," he said.

Martin began his testimony by saying Schaefer believes in open meetings. Under questioning from Sen. Gerald Winegrad, D-Anne Arundel, he finally acknowledged that Schaefer supports open meetings as defined in current law."

The bill before the Senate committee resulted from a lobbying campaign by the Maryland Media Confederation, a group of Maryland and District of Columbia newspapers and television stations working to close loopholes in the current law.

Martin was the only witness who objected to making any changes in the law. Some of the proposed revisions were acceptable even to the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League, which have opposed the attempt by news organizations to write a stronger law.

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