More Cuts, No Tax Increase Common Theme In Carroll

October 06, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

On the subjects of taxes and government spending, construction business owner David W. Schultz is as emphatic as they come.

"I'm not in favor of any new taxes, period, exclamation point, and any other mark you want to put after it," said Schultz, a Hampstead resident and president of Wesley Construction Co. Inc.

Like many Carroll residents, Schultz, 38, who has four children, said he is sacrificing to make ends meet. He has curtailed spending on his business because of the recession. Government should do the same, he said.

"I'm in favor of cuts, cuts and more cuts. But I also favor spreading them around to non-essential services people won't miss, instead of high-profile items."

Schultz's opinions are typicalof comments Carroll legislators heard repeatedly last week in reaction to the $446 million deficit-reduction plan introduced by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and adopted by the state Board of Public Works Wednesday. The budget cuts affect a wide array of government services, including police protection and education, and programs for the needy, such as addiction treatment and welfare. They also include 1,766 job terminations to take effect Nov. 1.

Schultz believes there is "an incredible amount of waste and fat (and) that they could balance the budget on tomorrow."

Most Carroll legislators agree that government should continue to slash spending without imposing any new or increased taxes to solve the budget problems.

"Our first obligation on the budget committee is to downsize government with the least impact on individuals before talking about a tax increase," said Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard.

Carroll delegates Richard C. Matthews and Donald B. Elliott are working with the House Republican Caucus to develop a package of budget cuts for the next fiscal year. The group intends to hold public hearings around the state this fall to accept ideas on how to avert additional taxes.

But Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, is disturbed by cavalier talk of wasteful spending and retrospective criticism of specific cuts that some believe are intended to generate support for a tax increase. He contends that the "fat" was cut in previous budget reductions totaling more than $500 million. Further cuts will diminish programs and adversely affect people, he said.

He opposes tax increases because that is the public will, he said. But he expresses disappointment that the "social contract" between the public and government has been "broken."

"The fact is that the general public -- taxpayers who believe, maybe mistakenly, that they have no stake at all in government -- are not willing to have taxes raised and basically don't care what happens," he said. "They want the cuts made and let the chips fall where they may.

"We're talking pain. But most people don'tmind inflicting pain on others as long as it doesn't affect them."

Westminster resident David Pyle, a former Carroll Department of Social Services board member, said politicians sometimes operate under the "myth" that constituents want more services. However, he said he expects a modest tax increase will be necessary.

The governor can cut up to 25 percent of non-mandated programs without legislative approval. Legislative leaders planned to meet with the governor Saturday to discuss alternatives to some unpopular cuts, such as the firings of 83 state troopers.

The cuts translate to a loss of $2.2 million in direct aid to the county for police, emergency services, health care, education, Carroll Community College, and general operating budget revenues. The actual monetary loss to the county is greater becausesome cuts in state programs serving Carroll residents are not included in the $2.2 million figure, said Steven D. Powell, county budget director. For example, the state-financed county Health Department will be slashed by $1.4 million, he said.

The county commissioners have requested reduction plans by Monday of both 2 percent and 5 percent from each agency receiving county money. The commissioners say theyintend to avoid layoffs, but may have to resort to furloughs and other interim measures to save money. Some services probably will sufferand purchases most likely will be deferred, said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.

Powell said the impacts of forthcoming county cuts, scheduled to be announced Oct. 17, will not be known until county officials get clearer answers from the state and responses from local agencies. Then the commissioners will devise a reduction plan.

Layoffs and budget cuts, especially in social programs, are expected to place additional pressures on civic and ecumenical organizations to provideassistance.

"Our assistance will be needed more than ever," said Linda Geers, secretary of the Northeast Social Action Program, an ecumenical group providing food, clothing, rent and fuel assistance to Carroll residents.

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