Where to cut next?

Janice Piccinini

July 10, 1992|By Janice Piccinini

THE RECENT fiscal update on the state of Maryland's budget leaves little doubt that the public will feel the next round of cuts. We need to reduce the budget by another $240 million. So it is safe to assume that whatever "fat" was left in 1992 will not survive fiscal year 1993. And the ultimate indignity: State employees, who have taken the brunt of the budget crisis, may now be charged to park.

Last year, the budget committees of the Senate and House of Delegates undertook a detailed review of all agency budgets and imposed cuts on a line-item basis. The results of their actions, seldom reviewed by the public, are published in a document titled "Report of the Chairmen of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and House Appropriations Committee." Far from being dull, it itemizes every car, every car phone and program activity that wasn't funded this year.

To give you an idea of how much has already been deleted, here is a sample taken directly from the publication. Italicized comments are mine:

Judiciary: Delay filling judgeship vacancies. Eliminate 27 of the 54 vacant clerks of the courts positions and delete funds ($1.2 million) for the remaining 27 positions . . . Reduce operating expenses of the Circuit Court ($274,633). Delete 12 new bailiff positions to operate metal detectors . . . Don't expect the backlog of cases to ease. We need more judges to handle the unprecedented number of court cases.

Public Defender: Deny 24 of 34 additional contractual positions. Public defender can handle increased caseloads in an expedited criminal justice system. More plea bargaining will be offered by the prosecutors and more felony cases will be disposed of at arraignment, rather than at trial. There will be less need for public defenders to provide trial representation to clients and therefore fewer cases going to trial. Upset with the backlog in the criminal justice system? To save money we're directing public defenders to plea bargain and "dispose" of felony cases.

Executive Department: Reduce the governor's staff to 91. This will leave the governor's office with eight more positions than during the Hughes administration. Delete two car phones and replacement of two cars.

Maryland You Are Beautiful: Delete all state funds and three permanent and one contractual position.

Baltimore Convention Center: Reduce funding for maintenance by half.

State lottery agency: Reduce advertising budget by $900,000. Aggressive advertising has made the lottery a money-making program.

Employee parking: The committees request that the Department Budget and Fiscal Planning, in consultation with the Department of General Services and Department of Personnel, study the costs and benefits involved with employee parking, including the costs and benefits of charging employees for parking.

Wellness and drug-testing program: Reduce contractual funds for wellness program and drug testing by approximately 11 percent due to fiscal condition of the state. It's much easier to talk -- even legislate -- for drugs among state employees. While we passed legislation, we couldn't fully fund it.

Department of Transportation: Reduce funding for public relations and government relations by one-third. Eliminate funding for driver education grants in its entirety ($2.9 million). This eliminates the $65 subsidy provided to approximately 43,800 individuals per year. There was a time when driver safety was a state priority.

Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program: Reduce general funds by $500,000.

Medical care programs: Eliminate nursing home loopholes; increase pharmacy co-payment 50 cents; increase pharmacy assistance co-payment $1; end payment for oral nutritional supplements; limit initial supply of new prescriptions; impose prior authorization on costly drugs; do not cover non-urgent care emergency rooms; alter payment to out-of-state hospitals; require prior authorization for transportation.

Assistance payments: Reduce funding for AFDC and General Public Assistance (GPA) programs by $16.9 million and $10.2 million respectively. . . Reduce funding for the administrative restructuring, forcing a phased approach to restructuring the state's welfare system. This is contrary to what the public wants, but restructuring costs money.

Maryland State Police: Reduce funds to implement violent crime control programs ($2 million). Terminate resident trooper program; eliminate trooper commander position; eliminate 22 vacant entry-level trooper positions due to civilianization. Transfer troopers currently performing administrative functions to direct law enforcement. Reduce public information activities by one-third.

University of Maryland Medical System: Reduce the state contribution to pension costs, recognizing that the medical system can recover these costs in rates. Isn't this what we are trying to stop the insurance industry from doing?

Janice Piccinini, who represents Baltimore County's 10th District the Senate, served on the nine-member team that developed the Senate's budget-balancing package and on the conference committee that crafted the 1992 Maryland budget.

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