Lawmakers try to ease cuts Legislators will ask Schaefer to weigh changes.

October 04, 1991|By John Fairhall and Marina Sarris | John Fairhall and Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff

Legislative leaders plan to meet with Gov. William Donald Schaefer tomorrow in an attempt to cushion the impact of his budget cuts.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continued introducing bills today dealing with the budget, especially the cuts in the Maryland State Police and Med-Evac helicopter program.

There was some good fiscal news: Officials announced that the state's Triple A bond rating had been upheld again by rating agencies. The rating assures the state of the lowest interest rates when it borrows.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. said he hopes to persuade Schaefer to alter the mix of cuts, within Schaefer's $450 million total.

"We'll maybe come out with a different equation but the same bottom line," Mitchell said.

If that fails, many senators want the legislature to stay in session and approve budget bills -- a step Mitchell indicated he is reluctant to take before January.

One state senator has introduced a tax bill that would restore some cuts to the state police and MedEvac helicopter program yesterday.

Schaefer, however, is reluctant to make piecemeal changes.

He wants the legislature to come up with a more far-reaching plan to counteract the sweeping budget cuts approved Wednesday.

Although shy about the using the word "taxes," Schaefer has hinted repeatedly that tax increases could solve the problem.

The cuts, proposed by Schaefer and passed by the Board of Public Works, will leave 1,766 government employees without jobs in November and gut certain welfare, Medicaid, health and drug treatment programs.

The cuts also will eliminate counseling and education programs for prisoners and reduce state aid for health programs, colleges and universities, and local governments.

Schaefer aide Daryl C. Plevy said the governor "wants to look at the big picture. If you're talking about picking and choosing, he's got some big concerns. There are an awful lot of people affected by these cuts."

Plevy speculated that the "governor would have some real problems with a bill" such as the one backed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

That bill would restore Med-Evac cuts and save the jobs of two-thirds of the 83 troopers who have received pink slips.

It would raise $2.8 million this year by imposing a sales tax on purchases at hospital and college cafeterias.

Miller calls the police cuts "insane."

Plevy argued that the police agency has not been hit as hard as others.

Nonetheless, a large-scale tax increase -- the "big picture" solution that Schaefer seems to be suggesting -- does not appear likely at the moment. Many legislators, particularly in the House, don't want tax increases during a recession.

Mitchell does not want the legislature to address the budget crisis now. He told fellow delegates that he does not "feel there's a need for a special session" to deal with the budget "at this time."

Mitchell said the legislature should continue studying state spending and revenues in order to find a long-term solution for the January, 1992 session.

An attorney general's opinion issued yesterday said the Board of Public Works could reconsider the cuts until they take effect, at which point the board could not rescind its action.

After that, the only way to undo the cuts would be for the legislature to raise taxes.

Unlike Mitchell, Senate leader Miller wants the legislature to take up the budget issue now. All ideas should be discussed, including tax increases, a "one-shot" special lottery and furloughs of state workers, Miller said.

"We're elected to be problem-solvers," said Miller, a comment that could be construed as a slap at the House.

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