Schaefer, state board allow budget ax to fall Maurer fails in bid to delay cuts, firing of 1,766

October 03, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun David Conn of The Sun's business staff contributed to this article.

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer and state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein refused yesterday to postpone what they clearly viewed as inevitable and voted to fire 1,766 state employees and broadly slash government services as part of Mr. Schaefer's $450 million deficit-reduction plan.

State Treasurer Lucille Maurer unsuccessfully urged a 48-hour delay in the hope that the General Assembly could be persuaded to find a way to reverse at least some of the reductions. She was the lone dissenter in the state Board of Public Works' 2-1 vote.

"It's easy to say 'no,' " Mr. Schaefer complained after the vote.

All three members of the board said they hated to cut so deeply into the basic functions of state government, but each cited a constitutional duty to keep the state's budget in balance.

Mr. Schaefer took personal responsibility for the plan, saying, "I want to make it clear this an executive budget. What is proposed is mine."

Mrs. Maurer, the General Assembly's representative on the board, tried three times to persuade her two colleagues to delay until tomorrow a final vote on the deep reductions in services provided by state agencies. She said she was willing to immediately go along with the equally severe cuts in state aid to local jurisdictions and to private or non-profit organizations.

With the legislature already in special session on the issue of congressional redistricting, she said, it would not hurt to wait a couple of days to see if an alternative plan could be developed. "I think the public is tired of [the legislature] quibbling over what precinct goes where. They want the legislature to heed the problems of the whole state," she said.

She then chastised the Maryland congressional delegation, saying its members, too, should turn their attention from redistricting and concentrate instead on proposals that could help Maryland out of its financial problems.

She suggested that they try to persuade Congress to allow states to tax alcoholic beverages and tobacco products sold on federal property and to let states tax mail-order sales involving out-of-state companies.

But neither Mr. Schaefer nor Mr. Goldstein would second any of Mrs. Maurer's motions for a delay.

Mr. Goldstein expressed concern that state troopers were being laid off as part of the plan and suggested that early retirements for some might have been a better solution. But he offered no motions.

The governor, who folded his arms across his chest and stared straight ahead as he listened to the debate on either side of him, said the $450 million plan -- the fifth major government cutback in a year -- is not the end of his problems.

Citing new figures from Mr. Goldstein that show sales tax receipts in August and September have already slipped $13 million below estimates, with a further drop expected in October, he said he now has to prepare for "Round 6."

And, if Christmas sales are bad, he added, there probably will be a "Round 7."

Some, he said, suggest that he cut his own staff. "That'll save, maybe, $400,000? Where do I find the $13 million?" the governor asked.

Also yesterday, state Fiscal Services Director William S. Ratchford II told members of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that the latest sales and use tax receipts from July and August showed declines in almost every category when compared with the same months a year earlier.

He warned that the budget cuts may lead to higher costs in programs such as corrections and Medicaid, and that this, combined with the increasingly distant economic recovery, pointed toward an even higher deficit for fiscal 1993 -- which begins July 1, 1992 -- than the currently anticipated $600 million shortfall.

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