Bureaucrats and brass bear the brunt of initial cuts by Senate budget panels

February 29, 1992|By Laura Lippman and John W. Frece | Laura Lippman and John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- Two Senate budget subcommittees yesterday began the thankless task of hacking millions of dollars from the $12.6 billion spending plan Gov. William Donald Schaefer submitted for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The jobs of bureaucrats at the Department of Education, midlevel brass in the state police, public information officers in a variety of agencies and money for out-of-state travel, car phones and programs large and small were slashed the first day.

Exact totals weren't immediately available, but it appeared the two Budget and Taxation subcommittees together trimmed Governor Schaefer's fiscal 1992 spending plan by about $41 million. They are to reconvene today to continue the process.

With Mr. Schaefer's proposed expenditures at least $700 million beyond expected revenues, budget committees in both houses are looking for a politically salable combination of budget cuts and tax increases to close the gap.

Sen. Laurence Levitan, the committee's chairman, said the goal is to trim the governor's spending by about $170 million, in addition to reducing state programs that aid local governments by another $240 million.

That still leaves a hole that the Senate committee hopes to fill by raising $440 million in taxes, the Montgomery Democrat said. Such a package is likely to include a half-percent increase in the state's 5 percent sales tax, a broadening of the sales tax base, and other increases in cigarette and alcohol taxes.

An increase in the state gasoline tax also is likely to be part of the package, as is a bill giving Baltimore and the 23 counties authority to raise their piggyback income tax rate to 60 percent of the tax residents pay to the state. The current maximum is 50 percent.

Mr. Levitan said he hopes the committee will finish by next Thursday, with the full budget and tax package scheduled to hit the Senate floor the following week.

"It gives me heartburn," Baltimore Democrat Barbara A. Hoffman said after guiding her subcommittee through a two-hour session that cut $25 million from the budgets of six agencies, including the health and education departments.

The subcommittee chaired by Harford Democrat William H. Amoss voted to eliminate the positions of seven state police captains who serve as regional troop commanders.

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