Schaefer refuses to delay cuts in budget Legislators wanted to make own deficit cure.

November 20, 1991|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff

Gov. William Donald Schaefer today rejected a request from Maryland lawmakers that he postpone making further cuts in the state budget until they have time to come up with a remedy for the state's revenue problems.

Citing pressures to balance the budget and a lack of confidence in the legislature's ability to find a quick solution to the state's money problems, Schaefer said in Annapolis that he plans to go ahead with about $175 million in cuts possibly by the end of December.

"I'm not going to postpone it," he said. "I can't wait."

Had the governor agreed to set aside the budget ax, at least temporarily, it would have meant a holiday reprieve for many state employees and programs already suffering the effects of previous cuts and a stagnant economy.

Lawmakers made the request just three weeks before the state Board of Revenue Estimates is scheduled to release official revenue projections that will give a clearer picture of Maryland's fiscal condition. The governor will use the official estimates to determine how much must be cut to balance the state's $11.5 billion budget.

In the meantime, however, Schaefer said he is assuming the new deficit figure will be about $175 million.

"We don't want any budget action taken until we have time to come up with a plan," Del. Charles J. Ryan, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said yesterday.

Ryan, D-Prince George's, said the legislature hopes to have a plan to solve current budget problems by January, then devote the rest of the three-month legislative session to next year's budget.

He said further cuts by the governor could derail attempts to solve the problems altogether.

"Any action that would be taken now would bust our plans apart," Ryan said.

Ryan said General Assembly leaders, who will ask taxpayers for their opinions on the budget during five public hearings in December, want to look at the two budgets as a single problem to be solved during the legislative session that begins in January.

Schaefer said today he expects lawmakers to return to Annapolis with the same conclusion he has had for weeks -- Maryland residents are opposed to increasing taxes.

"I'm going on the presumption 'no new taxes,' " he said.

Schaefer said the next round of cuts will be painful and could affect state services spared during an earlier round of cuts after protesters persuaded lawmakers to reduce aid to local governments instead.

During a bitter special legislative session in September, Schaefer and lawmakers agreed to cut the budget by $376 million. The controversial action resulted in reduced financial aid to education, local jurisdictions and the loss of about 1,500 state jobs.

Since then, Schaefer has agreed to let a group of 26 members of the House of Delegates and state Senate work with his fiscal staff to create a proposed budget for fiscal 1993, which begins July 1.

Besides the $175 million deficit facing Schaefer in the current budget, budget officials believe state revenues will fall another $700 million short in the next budget.

The revenue estimates board, which consists of state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, budget Secretary Charles L. Benton Jr. and Treasurer Lucille Maurer, is scheduled to meet Dec. 4 in Annapolis.

And the legislative plan to hold meetings throughout the state to help find solutions to the state's budget problems leaves little time left for a December session of the General Assembly.

The public hearings will begin Dec. 2 in Annapolis. Subsequent hearings will be held Dec. 3 at Montgomery Community College in Rockville, Dec. 4 at Poly-Western Auditorium in Baltimore, Dec. 5 at Chesapeake Community College in Queen Anne's County and Dec. 6 at Hagerstown Junior College. The meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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