Schaefer campaigns for agenda Disabled honorees hear lobbying plea

March 27, 1991|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer used a ceremony honoring achievements by the developmentally disabled yesterday as a forum to ask the legislature to reconsider its rejection of his request for $48.3 million from the transportation fund to pay for a variety of social programs.

"One of the things that disturbs me about government, whether it's the mayor or whether it's the legislature, [is that] there are those who say next year is time enough," Governor Schaefer said. "My answer to that is: 'Suppose it was you? Would next year be time enough?' "

He also exhorted the people who had come to the ceremony to proceed downstairs to lobby the General Assembly on behalf of his proposals.

"You can help because you're right here where the legislators are meeting right now," he said. "You can go right down there and say: 'OK, we want to help and we want you to put that

money back right now.' "

Cristine Boswell, executive director of Maryland's branch of the Association for Retarded Citizens, said her group would hold a news conference today and continue to lobby legislators by letter and by telephone.

"This is sort of our last-ditch effort to get our message out," she said.

On Monday, the governor introduced a supplemental budget for fiscal 1992 calling for $48.3 million in social programs that would be paid from the Transportation Trust Fund. The Assembly immediately rejected the governor's proposal, citing its long-standing opposition to any transfer from the depleted transportation fund.

At yesterday's ceremony, attended by about 70 people, Mr. Schaefer repeatedly pointed out that those who were being honored might not have achieved as much in life without state-funded programs to help them.

The honorees included people like 53-year-old James Cutter of Glen Burnie, who was born physically and mentally disabled but who managed to overcome his disabilities. Mr. Cutter now works in a bowling alley and spends his spare time helping a severely disabled 5-year-old boy. Mr. Schaefer said Mr. Cutter's experience was one of the "miracle stories" made possible by state funding.

In his supplemental budget, the governor designated millions for programs to help the developmentally disabled, deinstitutionalize the mentally retarded, provide kidney dialysis treatments and address other social needs. With his funding proposals rejected, Mr. Schaefer said finding money for these programs was "up to the legislature now."

Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, said legislators would try to find money for the programs but vowed not to use transportation funds. Mr. Levitan also chastised the governor for presenting an unacceptable plan, rather than a plan that took into account the legislature's revenue proposals.

A conference committee of Senate and House members currently is considering revenue measures such as a sales and excise tax on cigarettes, extending the sales tax to certain foods and eliminating Maryland's 40 percent tax break on capital gains.

"Why wasn't the governor creative enough? Why did he reject capital gains? Why did he reject the food tax?" asked Mr. Levitan. "He could have used some of that money to fund these programs."

Still, despite legislative opposition, Mr. Schaefer did not appear willing to back down from his proposed use of transportation funds. He told the social workers and others gathered at yesterday's ceremony that perhaps they could convince legislators to accept his plan.

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