ANNAPOLIS -- Schaefer administration officials acknowledged yesterday that the number of state employees who will lose their jobs as a result of a $446 million deficit reduction plan will be less than the 1,548 estimated two weeks ago, but strongly denied that the original figure was exaggerated to build support for a tax increase.
The actual figure of "warm body" layoffs -- as opposed to the elimination of vacant positions -- will be lower due to a variety of factors, said Frederick W. Puddester, the governor's deputy budget secretary.
Some of the approximately 600 terminated "PIN numbers" (personal identification numbers) that were filled when the plan was announced will be vacant by the time the layoffs go into effect Nov. 1, as employees have moved into other vacant but funded state jobs or have taken positions in the private sector, he said.
In addition, it now appears that local governments have found enough money to keep on the payroll at least some of the estimated 720 local health officers the Schaefer administration thought would lose their jobs as a result of cuts in state aid to localities.
Mr. Puddester said there is no way to say right now precisely how many employees will actually lose their jobs. But he said he does know that 1,051 "PIN numbers" (including 400 that were vacant when the plan was announced) will be officially abolished that day, as well as another 200 contractual jobs.
The discrepancy in the layoff figures was first pointed out in an article in yesterday's editions of the Washington Post, which quoted two Republican delegates as questioning whether the original figure might have been inflated to stir up public support for higher taxes.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, in Washington for the day, lashed out at the accusation, saying: "Republican members of the House and Senate [should be] applauding" the lower layoff figure instead of making accusations, he said. "I think it's the worst kind of statement I've ever heard."
Michael Golden, spokesman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said reports from the counties are still incomplete, but said at least 425 actual local health employees "and probably more" will be out of work. Whether the number will reach 720, he said, "is hard to say. Apparently a lot of counties are backfilling the positions, replacing state funds with local funds."
Anne Moultrie, spokeswoman for the University of Maryland system, said 324 jobs have been eliminated, 100 of which were occupied.
Tom Bowman and Patricia Meisol of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.