Schaefer resists tax increases to ease college cuts

November 14, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that he understands student frustration with budget cuts to state colleges and universities but added that it is premature to be talking about raising taxes to avert such cuts.

"To pick one area without looking at the whole fiscal picture is premature," said Mr. Schaefer, responding to proposals floated Tuesday to shift gasoline tax revenues or higher taxes on utilities to higher education.

"I'm extremely sympathetic to the plight of higher education," Mr. Schaefer said, saying it remains one of the highest priorities of his administration.

But the governor said that as long as the public opposes the idea of raising taxes, he has an obligation to keep the state budget in balance, which means reducing spending to reflect recessionary declines in revenue.

Higher education has to share in those reductions along with every other agency of government, he said.

A group of legislators who represent the district that includes College Park proposed Tuesday that $38 million in corporate income tax revenue destined for the Transportation Trust Fund be sent, instead, to Maryland's 11 four-year colleges and universities.

Another legislator, Delegate Henry B. Heller, D-Montgomery, offered a separate proposal to raise the gross receipts tax on gas and electric utilities to collect about $38 million for community colleges.

Shaila R. Aery, the secretary of higher education, said that the state university system cannot sustain further reductions without sacrificing its goal of attaining national prominence.

"Dr. Aery is one of the bright lights in higher education," Mr. Schaefer said, adding that "she's just attempting to give us a bite on where to find the money . . . But you can't just tax this and tax that without looking at the whole picture."

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