In an unusual step for a Maryland official, Gov. William Donald Schaefer is expected to broadcast a statewide economic message on radio and television next week.
Schaefer's first ever "fireside chat," 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 governor's 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.
Schaefer wants Marylanders to know the grim condition of the budget, but he also wants them not to lose confidence in efforts to revitalize the economy, Traynor said.
"He thinks it's important to go right to the citizens," said Traynor. "He wants to say that we're not going to lie 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."
Traynor said the governor may encourage Marylanders to shop at traditional levels this season, despite the recession, to help boost the economy. He said the governor is likely to urge holiday buyers to support state businesses and products.
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 then-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-tax 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 for broadcast during the prime-time viewing slot, said Traynor. Stations that broadcast the speech will do so at no cost to the state.