Widespread Md. layoffs won't hit too close to home--for some

October 02, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

Five years ago, back when Maryland's economic forecasters saw only sunshine, Gov. Harry R. Hughes made do with a staff of 74. Today, amid a budget hurricane that's about to toss more than 1,700 state employees out of work, Gov. William Donald Schaefer presides over an executive staff that's swollen to 119.

And none is being laid off.

How did the governor's office escape the storm? Frank Traynor, the governor's press secretary, would not answer directly.

"All I know is that these cuts affected agencies across the board," Mr. Traynor said. "I don't think any agency in state government escaped the budget microscope."

Indeed, another administration aide said, the governor's office is not the only state agency spared layoffs. Several offices -- including the attorney general's office, the offices of secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer, the office of planning, the state lottery -- are making cutbacks without having to cut workers.

The Schaefer office will cut four vacant positions from its personnel list. In other departments, the budget cuts mean real people out of work.

To meet a projected deficit of $450 million in this fiscal year, 83 state troopers will lose their jobs; welfare recipients will lose their grants; 700 health workers will be laid off; local governments will forgo state funds. The grim list of programs cut and people out of work rolls on and on.

But as late as last week, the governor's office was still hiring. Buddy Roogow, former Howard County administrator, was named the governor's director of operations at a salary of $75,000.

Yesterday, Mr. Roogow groaned when he was asked how it felt to be freshly hired amid the layoff announcements. "I think this is a tragic period in government," he finally said.

In offices in the State House and in Baltimore, members of the governor's executive staff will be facing up to the financial crisis by cutting back on travel, deferring the purchase of new equipment, cutting down on supplies.

What about the jump in the size of the executive office staff since early 1987, when Mr. Schaefer succeeded Mr. Hughes in the governor's office?

"That's an unfair question for me to answer," said Mr. Traynor who has been Mr. Schaefer's spokesman since July. "Being the new kid, I don't know what they used to do."

One of the largest increases in Schaefer personnel comes in the area of press and public relations.

The Hughes administration had a press office that ranged from four to six employees, according to figures supplied by the legislative Department of Fiscal Services. Those employees handled all news media inquiries, managed public relations events and wrote ceremonial proclamations.

Mr. Schaefer's press office numbers nine, according to Fiscal Services, but those employees handle only the news media. The more ceremonial public relations events are produced by the new office of scheduling and public relations, which has six employees listed in the state telephone directory.

According to the Department of Fiscal Services figures, the executive budget for fiscal 1987, the last year Mr. Hughes was in office, provided for 74 employees in addition to the governor and the lieutenant governor. If some employees whose jobs are now considered part of the executive department are added into the equation, the staff would number 81.

This year, Mr. Schaefer's executive department numbers 119.

Schaefer loyalists discount such comparisons of the Schaefer and Hughes administrations, saying the size of the Schaefer executive department reflects the energy and accomplishments of the governor.

Yesterday, as Governor Schaefer detailed the cuts to an audience that included more than 100 protesting state troopers, a heckler shouted out a question: Would the governor be taking a pay cut?

If Mr. Schaefer heard, he did not acknowledge the question.

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