Gov. William Donald Schaefer says he has strong misgivings about key parts of the legislature's new budget plan that shifts cuts to local government and furloughs state workers.
The plan, devised over the past two days by leaders of the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates, would restore $83 million worth of cuts from several social service programs and State Police.
But to make up for the difference, the plan would cut education and transportation aid to local governments by about $50 million and furlough state workers for as long as seven days in the next eight months.
Schaefer said today that he is bothered by two of the legislative leaders' key cost-cutting schemes.
"I am extremely reluctant to cut education," he said at a state bond sale this afternoon. He also said he does not like the idea of furloughing state employees.
"I just don't want to cut state employees any more," he said.
Schaefer said he remains confident that he and legislative leaders will be able to work out a compromise at a late afternoon meeting. But he warned that the final cuts may wind up larger than the $450 million announced last week because sales tax revenues are about $15 million below projections.
If Schaefer and lawmakers can't reach an agreement, his $450 million budget reduction plan will take effect Nov. 1.
Legislators have tried to find alternatives to some of Schaefer's least popular cuts, particularly the public assistance grants and reductions in state police and Med-Evac emergency helicopter funding.
Even with the shifts proposed by the legislature, most of the 1,766 workers Schaefer plans to fire would lose their jobs, legislators said.
Even if the governor does go along with the legislature's plan, it was not clear whether it has enough votes in the Senate to pass.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, voted against the plan in a leadership meeting, saying later that education funding is a top priority of the people.
Under the legislature's plan, Baltimore would lose an additional $4.6 million in state aid; Baltimore County, $5.3 million; Anne Arundel County, $4.2 million; Carroll County, $1.5 million; Harford County, $2.1 million; and Howard County, $1.7 million.
The proposed cuts in education and transportation would amount to 2.5 percent in all but Baltimore City and four poor rural counties. These cuts would come on top of $115 million reduction in aid ordered by Schaefer last week.
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today said he hopes the governor rejects the proposal to cut local education funds.
"We fought hard to get the state to come up with this . . . funding and this is money that was promised to our children," the mayor said, adding: "To cut this money is to mortgage the future of our city."
Under the legislature's plan, state police would have to find $3.8 million in savings to prevent the trooper layoffs or helicopter groundings proposed by Schaefer. Legislators have suggested that some of that money could be found in the troopers' overtime budget and laundry fund.
The biggest item in the legislature's plan is restoring $60.7 million in general public assistance and medical coverage for the poor. The state, however, would shift roughly $39 million in medical costs to hospitals.
The legislature's plan would restore some funding for prison education and $9.3 million for drug and alcohol treatment.