In an unusual step for any Maryland official, Gov. William Donald Schaefer is expected to deliver a statewide economic message early next week in a live broadcast on television and radio.
Schaefer's message, to be beamed from the State House in Annapolis beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday, will touch upon the origins of Maryland's budget woes and what he as governor and other Maryland residents can do to bring some relief to the battered economy.
Although Schaefer aides are still working on details of the speech, the message is likely to be part instructional and part inspirational, according to press secretary Frank Traynor.
With the governor taking the lead, lawmakers have been forced to cut the state budget five times in the past 15 months. Schaefer announced a sixth round this week, saying another $225 million in spending has to be trimmed or shifted in order to balance the budget by the end of the fiscal year.
The governor's plan calls for state employees to take up to five days off without pay and for cuts of $142.5 million in state aid to local jurisdictions.
Traynor said the governor wants Marylanders to know the grim condition of the budget but also wants them not to lose confidence in efforts to revitalize the economy.
"He thinks it's important to go right to the citizens," said Traynor. "He wants to say that we're not going to lay down and die and that there are a lot of things we can do to climb out of this, that we can't put all our hopes on the federal government."
Outside of routine addresses such as the State of the State message each January, it is unusual for a governor to go live on the airwaves in an effort to speak to all Marylanders. The last instance in recent memory occurred when former Gov. Harry R. Hughes discussed the state's savings and loan crisis.
Schaefer has warned that the state could face a seventh round of budget cuts in the spring if sales revenues from the December holiday shopping period fall below projections. A large part of the current budget deficit has been due to drops in revenues from the state sales tax.
Schaefer's message is expected to last about 15 minutes, giving local television and radio stations the unusual opportunity to sell ad time to area businesses during the prime-time viewing slot, said Traynor.
Using pool crews, the broadcast will be provided to television stations by WMAR-TV and to radio stations by WBAL.