An all-night vigil in Annapolis by some of Baltimore's elected officials was to be followed today by a lobbying effort by parents, school nurses, students, police officers, fire fighters, sanitation workers and others affected by proposed cuts in state aid to local governments.
"This is not a protest, it is not a confrontation, but merely to create a visual reminder to members of the legislature now that they aren't just dealing with figures and numbers but real people," said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.
Clarke was among 50 to 75 elected officials from the city and Anne Arundel County that stood outside the State House late last night. Some held signs.
The group of citizens was to talk to legislators today to seek a long-range solution to the budgetary crisis, said Clint Coleman, press aide to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. The mayor planned to join the lobbying effort this afternoon.
Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, said such a dramatic move is necessary. "We were down in Annapolis Tuesday talking to legislators and were told by members from Baltimore County that their constituents have told them to let the city bleed rather than raise taxes," he said.
A proposal by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to cut the state budget by $450 million created the possibility for the loss of more than $21 million in state aid to the city.
More than $10.7 million of that state aid went into the city's general fund operating budget. If these cuts take effect Nov. 1 as the governor proposed, every city agency would have to reduce its budget by 6 percent, city budget officials told the City Council Monday night.
That would include fire, police and education departments.
Another $10 million in lost state aid would be funds targeted for specific programs, including $1.49 million to schools nurses. Another $1.7 million cut would force the city to drop 1,200 4-year-olds from a pre-kindergarten program for at-risk children.
City officials support a combination of raising revenue and more equally distributing the revenue to jurisdictions as a way to resolve both state and local budget crises.
One proposal city officials advocate is changing the method of distributing piggyback taxes. This tax, "piggybacked" on top of the state income tax, goes to the jurisdiction where the taxpayer lives. The city wants the money to go to the jurisdiction where the taxpayer works.
Marina Sarris contributed to this story.