Schaefer to lay off 1,766, make deep budget cuts Medevac, health, welfare and aid programs face ax

October 01, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun Sandy Banisky, Michael J. Clark and Martin C. Evans of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

ANNAPOLIS -- Out of money and out of options, Gov. William Donald Schaefer is expected to announce plans today to lay off 1,766 state employees, eliminate another 419 vacant jobs, close two medevac helicopter bases, sharply curtail welfare and drug addiction programs, and eliminate the General Public Assistance program for the poor.

At a breakfast meeting in Crownsville for business and community leaders this morning, Mr. Schaefer also is expected to unveil plans to slash state aid to Baltimore and the 23 counties -- money used in lieu of property tax increases, or for police protection, pre-kindergarten, "magnet schools" or other programs -- by about $100 million, the maximum permissible without legislative involvement.

Also to be announced: elimination of the Security and College rTC Park State Police barracks and termination of the 83 sworn officers and 25 civilian employees who work there. Members of a State Police training class, three-quarters of the way to a December graduation, were summoned from a firing range and a driver training course yesterday and told their class was being abolished.

In addition to closing medevac bases in Centreville and near Gaithersburg, the governor is expected to ground the helicopter flights statewide from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily.

All educational, vocational training, recreational and other programs for state prison inmates also are about to be axed from the budget.

"There will no longer be any pretense of a rehabilitative effort," said Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's. He labeled the decision "a disgrace" and predicted it would result in federal lawsuits against the state.

Pink slips for the layoffs, effective Nov. 1, were in the mail yesterday, Schaefer administration officials told legislators.

Hundreds of the layoffs were expected in local health offices, including physicians, nurses and restaurant inspectors. Those offices provide immunizations for schoolchildren, clinics on AIDS other sexually transmitted diseases, mental health counseling, nutrition supplements for babies and other health services.

Larry Leitch, deputy health officer for Carroll County, said he cannot remember rougher budgetary times. In the past, he said, budget problems were felt in his office "like a ripple. This sounds like a tidal wave."

The broad cuts are Mr. Schaefer's response to a deficit in the 3-month-old current fiscal year that already is estimated as high as $450 million. He is expected to take the plan before the full three-member Board of Public Works tomorrow for approval.

"It is probably worse than I thought," said Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee. "A lot of good programs are being shot down."

Among the expected cuts:

* A 2.5 percent reduction in Aid for Families with Dependent Children, the state's largest welfare program, and a 3 percent reduction in institutional foster care payments.

* A 25 percent reduction in state grants to private entities, such as the Baltimore Zoo, the National Aquarium, private colleges and the Maryland School for the Blind.

* At least $3 million from economic development programs, including canceling Governor Schaefer's long-planned October mission to Mexico and South America.

* All funds used by the Public Defender's office for appellate transcripts. Without such documents, convicted criminals could go free on a technicality, officials warned.

* Eliminating rangers and other staff at Cedarville, Gathland, Patuxent River and Mattawoman state parks.

* At least $12 million from drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

"It's kind of like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre," said Michael Gimbel, director of Baltimore County's Office of Substance Abuse.

Word of the extensive cuts exploded in Baltimore City Hall like a percussion grenade. The city, which has by far the largest proportion of Maryland's poor, is heavily dependent on state aid for schools, health clinics, housing and social welfare programs.

"I am very concerned, I am worried about the impact on our citizens, especially our most vulnerable citizens," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said of the cuts, in a statement released by a spokesman.

"My view is the governor gave us a way out of this problem last year," Mr. Schmoke said, referring to proposals to revamp the state's tax structure. "We all ought to rethink his proposals and consider ways we can increase revenues in order to meet our needs."

In suburban Howard County, budget officer Raymond S. Wacks said he anticipated state aid cuts of $3.9 million, with nearly $1.6 million of the reductions affecting the county health department and Howard Community College.

State lawmakers said the governor repeatedly told them how unhappy he was to have to announce such drastic reductions but said he never mentioned the word "taxes" or urged them to raise taxes.

Still, some said they expected pressure from special interest groups, counties and others hurt by the cuts to push the tax issue to the forefront.

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