When Maryland lawmakers arrive in Annapolis Jan. 8 to begin the 1992 General Assembly session, they'll be greeted by hordes of angry critics who don't like the way the state has dealt with its fiscal crisis.
Organizations from around the state are planning to descend upon the State House and voice their concerns about the effect of budget cuts on government services.
Over a two-week period in January alone, no fewer than four rallies have been scheduled to protest cuts Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the legislature have made or plan to make to balance the budget.
One of the biggest demonstrations is scheduled for Jan. 8 -- the first day of the 90-day session -- when organizers hope as many as 10,000 state employees, teachers and other citizens who support higher taxes will jam the streets and walkways around the State House.
"This will be the big rally of the session, I imagine," said William Bolander, executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Members of AFSCME and the Maryland State Teachers Association, who are leading the protest, will be joined by other groups opposed to continued cuts in state services. The organizations include rank-and-file union members, school superintendents, parents and advocates for the poor.
Many of the group organizers will be familiar to lawmakers because they were actively calling for a restructuring of the state tax system at public hearings in the fall.
MSTA President Jane Stern, who predicted the rally will be "the largest that Annapolis has ever seen," said organizers want to impress lawmakers that many Marylanders are willing to pay higher taxes if such services as public education benefit from increased revenues to the state general fund.
"People don't want to have the budget balanced by cutting it out of the hides of children," Stern said yesterday.
Cuts to education come primarily from reductions in state aid to local governments. During a special session this fall, the legislature cut $85 million in aid to local jurisdictions. And this month Schaefer proposed cutting another $142.5 million in local aid, which educators say will hurt their programs the most.
The irony of the protests against the governor's budget cuts is that much of the cost of monitoring the rallies will fall upon the city of Annapolis, which has taken its share of the loss in aid to local governments.
"As these times get difficult with the budget, people are going to want to protest," said Annapolis Police Chief Hal Robbins.
Robbins said he did not know how much of the police department's overtime budget allocation of $527,000 will be used to provide security at the rallies.
State Police and the state Department of General Services police,
who provide security at the State House complex, expect the rallies will require overtime for their personnel, too.
Both Stern and Bolander said the Jan. 8 rally is only the start of a session-long lobbying battle the groups have planned to persuade lawmakers to raise revenues.
Stern said her organization supports higher income taxes for the wealthy, increasing corporate taxes, adding a penny to the 5 percent state sales tax and eliminating sales tax exemptions for a variety of goods and services.
Before January ends, two other organizations plan similar demonstrations. The Coalition to Overturn Budget Cuts expects to draw 1,000 people to the State House steps on Jan. 13, followed by the All People's Congress, protesting college tuition hikes Jan. 14 and 20.
While the state budget will be the "cause celebre" of choice, it won't be the only controversy to be drawing crowds. The abortion issue, for example, is expected to be revived Feb. 15 when an anti-abortion March for Life rally is scheduled.