Delegates Reject Tax Rise To Offset Planned Budget Cuts

Legislators Recommend Scaling Back Government And Introducing User Fees

October 06, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Members of the county's Annapolis delegation said Friday they opposeusing a tax increase to restore the $450 million Gov. William DonaldSchaefer plans to cut from the state budget Nov. 1.

House SpeakerR. Clayton Mitchell Jr. will tell the governor the House is not looking at new tax revenues as a solution, said Virginia M. Thomas, D-13A, vice-chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Thomas and other members of the House leadership have been developing recommendations for Mitchell and Senate President Thomas V. MikeMiller Jr. to share with the governor this weekend.

Because of the emergency powers given him in this fiscal crisis, the governor doesnot have to accept budget-trimming suggestions from the General Assembly.

The three-member public works board -- the governor, the comptroller and the state treasurer -- can and did make budget decisionsunilaterally. The board voted 2 to 1 last week to approve cuts that will lay off 1,766 government employees, including 83 state police troopers.

The cuts will eliminate or severely curtail certain healthand welfare programs, end counseling and education programs for prisoners, and reduce state aid to colleges, universities and local governments.

"After nine years of developing programs, they're being wiped out," Thomas said. She said she introduced a bill Friday that, ifenacted, would raise some revenue for drug and alcohol treatment. The kinds of solutions she envisions would have people pay "their fair share" for services, Thomas said.

Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, R-14, objected to the "cruel" way the governor made the cuts, saying it was designed to "grab everybody's attention" and force the legislatureto react in an emergency fashion.

Several senators had a number of tax bills prepared Friday, but he was the first on the Senate floorto question such measures, McCabe said.

McCabe said he would havepreferred that the governor meet with Senate and House leaders to work out across-the-board savings. Particularly distasteful, he said, was the governor's plan to fire people indiscriminately. "He should have looked at the most junior instead of the most senior and allowed early retirement instead of termination," McCabe said.

House Minority Whip Robert H. Kittleman, R-14B, said Schaefer's cuts are "alarming an awful lot of people" and were "not at all well thought out. Theyought to have been done more carefully."

However, Kittleman said,this is "a real, real crisis" that will carry

over into the next two years. He said the Republican caucus will be working on suggestions for cutting the budget that will "absolutely not" include a tax increase.

"God knows, we need to scale the size of government," saidRobert L. Flanagan, R-14B, but the governor "picked out things for shock value and ignored areas crying for cuts like his office staff and the office of the Secretary of State."

Martin G. Madden, R-13B, said he has been working on a way to retain the fired state troopers and "keep the Med-Evacs in the skies." Madden would charge for services that are now free: $500 for every Med-Evac helicopter trip and $10for every state police fingerprinting.

John S. Morgan, R-13B, accused the governor of "blackmailing" the General Assembly. "You don't give in to hostage-takers and blackmailers," he said. "It's not goingto help the troopers to give the governor more money with a tax increase."

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