ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer blamed budget cuts yesterday -- not his simmering feud with Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg -- for his decision to slash Mr. Steinberg's five-member staff by two.
But Mr. Steinberg said he thinks "I may be a scapegoat" for the governor's recent legislative reversals.
Describing himself repeatedly as befuddled and disappointed by the governor's action, Mr. Steinberg added: "He's had a glorious career, and to end it like this is sad."
"I recognize he has a lot of problems and I understand I may be a scapegoat," he said, citing the failure of several of the governor's legislative initiatives during the recent General Assembly session.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that Governor Schaeferhad decided to eliminate two positions from Mr. Steinberg's personal staff -- while not touching any of the 109 positions on the governor's staff.
Mr. Steinberg said he had been receiving calls all day from legislators, state employees and volunteers offering to help in the operation of the lieutenant governor's office.
Besides cutting Mr. Steinberg's staff, the governor said he was replacing Mr. Steinberg as chairman of the Maryland Executive Helicopter Advisory Committee with retired Secretary of Transportation Richard H. Trainor.
Mr. Schaefer, in an interview with The Sun yesterday, said he had protected his lieutenant governor's staff from past budget cuts by cutting staff cars and supplies. But he said he was forced to make layoffs when the legislature cut $240,000 from the governor's office budget, which includes Mr. Steinberg's staff.
"Did you ask him how many people he cut on his staff?" the lieutenant governor asked.
The staff members whose positions are affected are Patrick Roddy, executive assistant to Mr. Steinberg, and John Lang, executive director of the helicopter committee. Mr. Lang is expected to keep his job but work in another agency. Mr. Roddy is said to be studying whether he is protected by civil service.
"They [legislators] have been cutting my budget every year," the governor said yesterday. "That's all right. I never did that to a mayor in my lifetime. I never did that to a City Council. Then out of spite they did this."
He blamed House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, and Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, as the leaders of the movement to cut his budget.
"I went over and asked Clayton personally not to do this," Mr. Schaefer said. "I told them, 'Don't do this.' And the answer was, 'Tough.' "
Mr. Schaefer also acknowledged a growing rift between him and his lieutenant governor. "Actually, Mickey left me at the last third of the  session," he said. "Last year, there were some things he disagreed with me on."
One action Mr. Schaefer found hard to forgive was Mr. Steinberg's opposition in the 1991 session to the Linowes proposal for an $800 million package of tax increases. "He said he wouldn't testify" in favor of the bill, Mr. Schaefer said. "I said that was OK. And the agreement was he wouldn't say anything. And then he went to the press."
The governor's deteriorating relationship with the lieutenant governor took another turn last week as the governor provoked a highly publicized spat over deployment of the state's medevac helicopter fleet.
Mr. Steinberg favored stationing one of the state's $4.4 million French Dauphin helicopters on the Eastern Shore part time. Mr. Schaefer called that a "con job," saying it would not improve emergency medical service to the Shore.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, called the governor's action "a terrible mistake."
"The governor is burning bridges he should be crossing," he said.