ANNAPOLIS -- Save the Cellular Eight.
That could have been the rallying cry yesterday when the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held its annual hearing on Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget, in other years a juicy morsel for those who like to dine out on the fat in state government.
But these are lean times and car phones are one of the few points of contention in the 1993 executive budget.
At $6,157,000, the governor's proposed budget is smaller than this year's. The number of staff positions paid for by other state agencies has been reduced from seven to four. Fiscal analysts recommend, and the governor's staff agrees, that 11 vacant positions be abolished.
But Director of Operations Buddy Roogow took exception to the Department of Fiscal Services' recommendation that four of the department's eight car phones be eliminated.
"Car phones are not seen obviously as a luxury by those who have them," Mr. Roogow said. "They are seen as an extension of that office. Let us decide."
That was the perfect opening for Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore, who is famous for his attacks on state government and its bureaucrats.
"I do think this is an abuse," he said. "The car is seen as a status symbol. And the car and the phone together is Nirvana. Then you know you've really arrived."
While other committee members declined to join Mr. Lapides on this particular sortie, other senators agreed that one or two of the cellular phones were not essential.
When Mr. Lapides continued ranting about the importance of cutting back on staff in both the executive and legislative branch, Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, had the last word.
"The governor agrees with you, and has agreed there should be only 46 senators from now on," Mr. Levitan said.