Neall Asks County Delegation To Fight State Budget Cuts

December 20, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

County Executive Robert R. Neall asked county legislators yesterday to fight massive cuts in state aid proposed for local governments by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"I'm hoping you will all reconsider the governor's plan because, with all due respect, it was put together hastily and without too much thought," Neall told members of Anne Arundel's delegation to the General Assembly. "Fifteen million dollarswould be a real push."

Anne Arundel would lose $14.9 million in the latest round of state budget cuts, just two months after losing $14.2 million in state aid. The General Assembly must approve the plan, which Schaefer proposed to cover a $225 million state budget deficit.

The meeting, an annual event before the start of the legislative session in January, was markedly different from last year's. The county administration had no bills it wanted introduced. Instead, the discussion focused almostexclusively on budget woes.

Neall played a prominent role in the recent budget crisis, asking legislators for the authority to cut specific line items from the school budget and to reopen the county budget process. The proposal passed over the objections of educators and became known as the "Neall amendment."

He said he may propose moresolutions in the upcoming legislative session, among them restructuring the state's Medicaid program to reduce costs.

Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville, asked Neall if he wanted the Neall amendment continued past its June 30 expiration date.

Neall said he thought the authority was good to have if the county needed to reduce its budget midyear. "Particularly in very uncertain times, I think it's a usefulthing to have," he said.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, asked Neall if he would support a temporary measure giving local governments authority to raise taxes, a measure that was defeated in October.

"We can't expect you to take a hit and not give you the toolsto deal with it," Jimeno said.

"I will accept any authority you give me to deal with this," Neall said. "Imposing taxes will be my last resort. We're going to take every operation and put it through a tea strainer, and if we still need taxes, I will take the responsibility."

Neall also told the delegation his goals for developing a budget for fiscal 1993, which begins July 1.

He said he wants county government and the Board of Education to combine duplicate services, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, maintenance, procurement, data processing and fleet maintenance.

"We can reduce costs if we cooperate and corroborate," he said.

Budget Officer Steve Welkos said the county may increase next year's budget as much as 4 percent. Property taxes are expected to come in 10 percent higher than this year and income taxes may increase as much as 3 percent.

"We still see some growth possibilities," Welkos said.

Neall said he also wants to reducepersonnel costs, and said the county may do that by offering an early retirement program to employees with 25 years of service.

"We'relooking at every conceivable option to reduce operating costs," Neall said.

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