"There's going to be a showdown, and I wouldn't count the taxpayers out just yet. There is a whole coalition working against the tax hike, Republicans and Democrats alike," said Del. Martha S. Klima, R-Baltimore County. "No matter what they do [to raise taxes], we're against it. That's it in a nutshell."
The Maryland Republican Party even issued a statement containing a bright yellow sticker declaring, "Remember New Jersey," a reference to the Republican takeover of that state's legislature after Democrats voted through a large tax increase.
One key Democrat, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. of Kent County, may be the biggest obstacle to a major tax increase this session, which irritates some of his Democratic colleagues.
"He's got what he perceives to be his thumb in the dike, but he's gumming up the works of government," said one frustrated Senate leader.
Even if legislators act to avoid the governor's doomsday option, plenty of state programs -- and state employees as well -- are to be affected:
* For the second year in a row, state employees would be denied any pay raise or even any automatic incremental increases. That would save $100 million.
* State assistance to local health offices would be reduced by $10.4 million and a state police recruitment class would be canceled to save another $1 million. Various forestry, coastal zone and geological projects under the Department of Natural Resources would be trimmed by $1.5 million.
* Foster-care expenditures would be cut by nearly $8 million, and computerized tracking system to follow child support and income maintenance cases would be delayed to save another $3 million.
* More than $27 million now spent for placing handicapped children in specialized institutions would be eliminated.
"It's a minimal budget," said Deputy Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester. "There are no enhancements, no initiatives. It just protects the core services of government, and does little else."
Despite the hard times, the budget creates 1,135 new state jobs, thebulk of them to staff soon-to-be-opened state prisons. But it also abolishes 597 existing jobs, for a net increase of 538 state workers.
The doomsday alternative painted by Mr. Schaefer yesterday -- one which he said "would tear state government apart" -- was even more bleak:
* Five state agencies -- Natural Resources, Economic and Employment Development, Agriculture, Housing and Community Development, and Environment -- would be stripped of state funds and forced to rely on federal funds and money from fees, licenses and permits.
"These agencies will all but shut down and their services to the public will stop," Mr. Schaefer said. "Parks will close. There'll be no gypsy moth or mosquito spraying, no tourism program." Historical and cultural programs would be eliminated; efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay would be trimmed back.
* Grants under the state's largest welfare program, Aid for Families with Dependent Children, would remain at already reduced fiscal 1989 levels. A family of three, for example, would continue to get $377 a month -- instead of the $406 Mr. Schaefer would propose with more revenue.
* The General Public Assistance program for 27,000 disabled, destitute adults would be abolished.
* Medicaid programs for the poor that pay for prescription drugs, dental and vision care, kidney dialysis and basic personal needs would be eliminated. These are not required by federal law.
* The Maryland School for the Deaf and the Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital would be closed.
* Subsidies for fire and rescue squads, Baltimore police foot patrols, drug enforcement in Prince George's County, rape crisis centers, assistance for the elderly, drug and cancer treatment programs, and local health offices would be slashed.
But like most lawmakers, Mrs. Sauerbrey dismissed as highly unlikely the doomsday predictions: "It's almost a useless document."
SCHAEFER's PREFERRED BUDGET
Governor Schaefer proposed "solution" budget that calls for spending cuts and new taxes. Here are some of cuts:
Reductions in Local Aid ($192.8 million): Change the law to reduce state aid to local governments, including payments that reduce property taxes and fund school bus transportation. Part of this would be offset by a $184 million increase in APEX aid to education.
No salary increase for state employees ($100 million): This would be theHealth and Mental Hygiene ($73 million): Reduce aid to local health departments and keep General Public Assistance recipients off Medicaid rolls.
Higher Education ($27.9 million): Eliminate 363 jobs in the University of Maryland System, all funding for University College (continuing education progrmas), cuts in maintenance and equipment.
Elementary and Secondary Education ($30.1 million): Mostly cuts rTC in state payments for placement of handicapped children in non-public schools.