ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland finds itself mere hours from the dawning of Doomsday -- or so lawmakers say.
Without $260 million in new taxes and adjournment approaching tonight, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and legislators may be forced to invoke their Doomsday budget, a 1993 plan that cuts back sharply on spending that has already been slashed by $1.7 billion over the last two years.
With its connotation of death and deprivation, the word may be an illustration of overheated political language, another attempt to leverage more taxes.
But veteran legislators say that it could bring harsh reductions in the quality of life.
"The public and most members of the General Assembly do not have an appreciation of the consequences inherent in Doomsday," says David S. Iannucci, Mr. Schaefer's chief legislative aide.
"Thousands of state employees could lose their jobs. Their lives would be affected forever. The poor who are living on the margins could cross over into real jeopardy."
Basic services ranging from foot patrol officers to public parks may disappear if voters aren't willing to pay the freight, the governor has warned.
With millions of dollars in state aid to local government at stake, thedoomsday scenario would pose a direct threat to public safety and quality of education, according to David Bliden, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties.
In Baltimore County, for example, another $13 million in cuts would be added to the $39 million in state aid already pared away over the last two years.
To raise the $13 million, the county would have to add 10 cents to its tax rate of $2.85 per $100 of assessed value.
In counties such as Prince George's and Talbot, which have property tax caps, the loss of state aid could only be made up by dropping programs and firing workers.
Mr. Schaefer told the assembly last January: "The doomsday budget is not what you want. It's not what I want. And most importantly it's not what the people want."
Yesterday, though, apparently convinced that the people would prefer anything to new taxes, the House and Senate appeared headed for a Doomsday adjournment.
The Doomsday plan agreed to by the House and Senate yesterday in the event a tax bill is not approved would:
* Cut $44 million from this year's $184 million increase in state aid to education.
* Eliminate the $36 million in state aid that now goes to the 23 counties for police protection.
* Cut a proposed new $30 million grant to the poorest Maryland subdivisions -- principally Baltimore.
* Cut $30 million in funds for medical care for the poor.
* Close all but a handful of the 46 state parks to save about $7 million. Only the money-making parks would remain open.
* Cut $10.6 million from combined rental housing, home ownership and housing loan programs.
* Close the Crownsville state mental hospital to save almost $14 million dollars.
* Cut $4.6 million from the State Arts Council.
* Cut $15 million in aid to the state's heavily used community colleges.
* Cut $5 million in aid to local family health programs.
* Severely cut the state's Office of Planning.