Budget may cut 1,700 state jobs, Schaefer predicts Fiscal experts say estimates of '92 layoffs are probably high

April 05, 1991|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Three days after the General Assembly approved next year's $11.6 billion state budget, Gov. William Donald Schaefer warned of a possible price tag: an estimated 1,200 to 1,700 fewer jobs for state workers.

"There will be layoffs, and we'll do it in the proper way," Governor Schaefer said yesterday. "I don't want to lay off. I don't like to lay off. I'm sorry there's a possibility of people being laid off."

The administration's budget experts cautioned that Mr. Schaefer's estimate was preliminary and subject to change.

For instance, it does not account for attrition -- employees quitting or retiring -- and some other factors that will likely keep the number of layoffs far below the figures suggested by the governor.

"It's preliminary. It's our first rough look, and it still has to be analyzed," said Frederick W. Puddester, deputy secretary of the Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning. "At best it's a rough guess."

However, Dennis H. Parkinson, another administration fiscal expert, said the 1992 budget was likely to cause 500 to 1,000 layoffs even after taking into account such factors as attrition.

The primary cause, he said, is that state agencies were underfunded to balance the budget initially submitted by Governor Schaefer to the legislature in February.

"Some of the agency heads built in automatic layoffs," Mr. Parkinson said. "We did some of that, and the legislature exacerbated some of that."

Governor Schaefer's announcement of potential layoffs came during his first meeting with State House reporters in more than a month. During the 80-minute session, he chastised lawmakers for not enacting this year the $800 million restructuring of state taxes proposed by the Linowes commission.

The legislature's failure to grapple with the issue makes a major tax increase likely in 1992, Mr. Schaefer said. But he warned that it might be up to the legislature to propose a plan of its own next time around.

Administration officials have already warned that without new taxes or a major reduction in services, Maryland would probably face a deficit of at least $365 million in fiscal 1993.

"They started the session with the statement, 'No new taxes,' and found out that was not possible," Mr. Schaefer said. "They didn't understand the difficult position the state was in because of the recession."

The General Assembly's budget experts said yesterday's pronouncement by the governor of future layoffs was the first they had heard of the issue, and they questioned its accuracy.

"We enacted a budget that specifically provided for no layoffs," said Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, a House Appropriations subcommittee chairman. "We didn't cut any warm bodies."

William S. Ratchford II, director of the legislature's Department of Fiscal Services, said the administration had yet to present his office with any such estimate.

"This would have been interesting information to have in March when the budget was working its way through the legislature," Mr. Ratchford said.

Mr. Puddester said agency administrators were continuing to analyze the effects of the recently-approved budget and would have a better idea of where they stood in the coming weeks.

The 1992 budget is supported, in part, by a $90.1 million tax increase that will raise the price of cigarettes and certain foods. The state's capital gains tax also was amended.

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