Tony Demma was looking for help as he wandered into a group of protesting state employees at the Preston Street office buildings in Baltimore yesterday.
"I just got my pink slip, lost my job after 23 1/2 years, and they tell me I'm not even eligible for retirement," said the science teacher at the Patuxent Institution.
Mr. Demma is just one of many already feeling the effects of programs eliminated to meet the state's $450 million budget shortfall. He found lots of sympathy among the noontime marchers but no immediate help.
"That's what we're here for, to try to save people's jobs," said Rommani Amenu-El, president of the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which organized the demonstration.
MCEA, the largest union of state workers, has proposed monthly unpaid furloughs, early retirement programs, a special lottery and a sales tax increase to help save jobs. (None of these ideas would save enough money to cut the deficit significantly, state officials have indicated.)
"Lay Off Schaefer, Save Our Jobs," the marchers chanted in front of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's Baltimore offices.
While the budget deficit could mean elimination of more than 1,500 state jobs next month, the $180 million planned cut in aid to local governments is expected to cause hundreds more layoffs in the counties and Baltimore.
The impending cuts in prison education programs have already had an impact, Mr. Demma said.
For the over-50 Mr. Demma, the worst will come Nov. 5 when his job is eliminated and he is 18 months short of qualifying for retirement.
"I find it difficult to carry on a conversation, to talk about anything without my anger showing through," he said. "I never thought I would reach that state." Still, he hopes that a solution will be found that would spread the financial burden among state workers.