Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday barged in on a legislative subcommittee that had voted to cut $200,000 from his staff budget and then, after retiring to a private office, railed at the subcommittee chairman.
Upon learning that the House Law Enforcement and Transportation subcommittee had voted to reduce his $6.6 million budget, Schaefer abruptly left his State House office and went across the street to the House office building, where the budget meeting was still under way.
Schaefer walked in on the committee's meeting, then stepped back out into the hallway, said Del. Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, chairman of the subcommittee.
When Maloney followed the governor into the hallway, Schaefer reportedly said something vulgar to Maloney. The two men then retired -- with the slam of a door -- into Maloney's private office down the hall, witnesses said.
Within minutes, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, rushed to Maloney's office, and a not-too-polite conversation continued, according to those who witnessed the ruckus.
The governor's stormy visit ended after about 10 minutes and he returned to the State House, witnesses said.
Maloney said the cuts to the governor's executive department budget were "minuscule," representing only a fraction of the $28.5 million the subcommittee trimmed from the total state budget yesterday.
Maloney said the $200,000 cut represented only 2.9 percent of Schaefer's executive budget, which includes funds to run the Governor's Mansion as well as salaries and operating expenses for the governor's staff.
The cut in the governor's budget was a smaller percentage than most state departments suffered, Maloney added, and was not tied to any specific item. Committee members felt every department should face some cuts because of the state budget crisis, Maloney said.
"We're trying to live within our means and we have to make cuts," he said. "This was a minor cut by comparison . . . and we had no idea it would trigger a nuclear reaction."