It won't exactly put Maryland's budget in the black, but Gov. William Donald Schaefer has followed his own advice and returned a week's pay to the state.
Earlier this month, Schaefer requested the state's top constitutional officers to accept an unpaid five-day furlough at the same time he ordered all state employees to take furloughs as part of a budget-balancing plan.
While the governor can require state employees to take furloughs, he can only ask elected officials to participate in the cost-saving plan, which was designed to save the state $16.5 million in salaries.
Overall, Schaefer's latest plan would cut $275 million from the state budget, mostly by reducing aid to local governments, trimming agency spending by $25 million and putting on hold $26 million in capital projects.
So far, several of the state's top elected officials have returned part of their earnings to the state or plan to do so shortly.
Schaefer, who receives an annual salary of $120,000, wrote a check for about $2,300 and sent it to state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein for deposit in the general fund shortly before Christmas, according to aide Daryl Plevy.
Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg said yesterday he has given the entire $27,500 pay increase he received this year to a number of charities. Steinberg's total pay this year is $100,000.
Both Steinberg and Schaefer received raises this year as the result of legislation passed by the General Assembly. Schaefer's increase was $35,000.
Goldstein, whose new comptroller's salary also is $100,000, gave $5,000 back to the state on Dec. 9 -- a day before Schaefer unveiled his furlough plan -- and intends to return a week's salary as well, according to Assistant State Comptroller Robert L. Swann.
"He definitely told me he will do that," Swann said yesterday.
State Treasurer Lucille Maurer plans to do the same, according to aide Gregory Pecoraro. And Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., according to Deputy Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler 3rd.
Pecoraro and Tyler said their bosses discussed the matter and quickly decided to participate in the governor's plan.
Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr., whose $70,000 salary reflects a $25,000 increase this year, said he has not been accepting his pay raise for about a month. He said that by See the end of the fiscal year on June 30, all of his pay increase will have been returned to the state.
"My raise is going back in the pot," Kelly said yesterday. "I didn't make a big deal about it. I just thought it was the right thing to do."
Schaefer's plan, the latest in a series of budget-balancing acts, may not be the last. Unless the economy improves, the governor said, more cuts may be needed next spring.
Under Schaefer's furlough plan,higher-paid employees will have to take off more time without salary than lower-paid employees. Those making more than $50,000 would take off five days without pay.