That Maryland still has a massive budget deficit comes as no surprise. From the moment the legislature grudgingly approved a budget in April, it was hopelessly out of balance. To be sure, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's comments over the weekend to the Maryland Association of Counties of a potential $500 million shortfall paints a "worst-case" scenario. But given the inaccuracies of past fiscal predictions, his pessimistic revenue outlook certainly seems prudent.
What was missing from Mr. Schaefer's speech was a game plan for tackling the state's latest budget shortfall. The prolonged recession is hitting Maryland hard, and earlier estimates of a rebound this fiscal year now appear inaccurate. That accounts for much of the $500 million of red ink mentioned by the governor to MACO leaders.
As we noted in these columns a month ago, Maryland's fiscal woes should be addressed by the governor and legislature as rapidly as possible. The sooner budget cuts are made, the easier it will be to erase the deficit. Conversely, if House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell and other legislative skeptics refuse to hold a special session, it will be far more painful to close a budget gap of this magnitude when the legislature meets again in January. By then, there will be less than six months remaining in the fiscal year.