Assembly paring its own budget 4 workers may be let go, but free coffee will stay.

December 04, 1991|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff

Salary increases will be kept intact. So will money for coffee and bottled spring water.

But leaders of the General Assembly, bent on paring their own costs next year, have agreed on a budget that would lay off four workers, reduce lawmakers' special allowances and ask chaplains to pray for free.

Under the proposal, approved yesterday by a combined House and Senate subcommittee, the legislature's general fund budget would total $37.8 million in fiscal 1993, which begins next July 1.

That represents no real growth in spending. But because they're getting a salary increase mandated by law, legislators had to cut staff and other expenditures to keep the tab the same as this year's.

Facing the toughest budget battle in a decade because of the poor economy, lawmakers cut budgets for district offices by $1,500, leaving $15,507 for delegates and $16,765 for senators.

Leaders will also scrutinize privileges such as free mailings to constituents. "We will control it. Trust me," said House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, when asked about the mailings.

The proposed budget contains a $1,000 pay raise in 1993 for each of the General Assembly's 188 members. The legislators accepted the raises during the 1991 session after the increases were recommended by a salary compensation commission that meets every four years.

The mandatory pay raise is part of a four-year salary plan that boosts annual pay from $25,000 in 1990 to $28,000 in 1994.

William S. Ratchford 2nd, the legislature's Director of Fiscal Services, said that the only way to reduce or eliminate the pay increase is through a constitutional amendment.

Lawmakers agreed to lay off four current employees in the Department of Legislative Reference and cut a position in the Department of Fiscal Services.

The layoffs will not go into effect until July and the positions to be eliminated have not been chosen yet, said Carvel Payne, director of Legislative Reference.

Legislative leaders also agreed not to turn off the supply of free coffee and bottled water to lawmakers and State House workers, at a cost of $20,000.

Other proposed reductions include eliminating the $40 fee paid to clergymen who deliver opening prayers in the House and Senate chambers, the allocation for interior renovations of legislative buildings and out-of-state travel for staff agencies.

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