Budget options on the agenda General Assembly to look for ways to cut own spending.

October 07, 1991|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff

State lawmakers today looked for ways to curtail their own spending, and they plan to brainstorm tonight about various ways to solve the state's overall budget crisis.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer asked the General Assembly to cut $2.1 million from its $19.5 million allowance to help balance the overall state budget, which faces a $450 million deficit.

"There's no question we will do it," House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. said today.

Legislators also hope to reach an agreement by Wednesday on an alternative to Schaefer's budget cuts, which call for firing 1,766 government workers and slashing certain welfare, law enforcement, Medicaid, higher education, rape-crisis and drug-treatment programs next month.

The cuts "will set the state back 20 years in recovery for addicts and alcoholics," Randy Travis, chairman of the Annapolis substance abuse council, said today.

The cuts, particularly to the state police and emergency medical services, have prompted a public outcry.

Nonetheless, many voters and legislators oppose higher taxes as an alternative approach, legislators said.

Despite support among several Senate leaders and some rank-and-file delegates -- particularly those from Baltimore City -- the idea of raising taxes this fall to avert the most severe cuts does not appear to be popular.

"There's no consensus for any type of tax increase at this time," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's.

"I personally believe there has to be a combination of both" new taxes and budget cuts, but taxes could not be raised until the public and the legislature believe that "fat has been eliminated from the budget," Miller said last night.

"We will be looking at alternative cuts," he added. "The bottom line is alternative cuts invariably mean that the subdivisions share more of the burden."

Although poorer jurisdictions such as Baltimore need all of their state aid, some of the richer counties may be able to absorb the loss of some state money, he said.

The governor proposed cutting aid to the counties and Baltimore by $115 million, and legislators are talking about further cuts.

Miller noted that Anne Arundel County found enough money to offer jobs to some of the 83 troopers the state is firing.

Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this story.

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