Governor's $450 million in cutbacks also would slash medical care for poor


September 17, 1992|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- More than 400 state employees would los their jobs, some 23,000 poor Marylanders would lose their state-reimbursed medical care, and every state agency would be hard hit under a $450 million budget-reduction plan Gov. William Donald Schaefer announced today.

Even that troubling scenario depends on Baltimore and the state's 23 counties absorbing a $150 million reduction in state aid.

It also counts on a new electronic lottery game bringing in $50 million, and transfers from the state's transportation fund and other smaller funds for housing, economic development and natural resources to make up another $50 million.

zTC "When you down-size government, you're directly affecting the lives of people," said Mr. Schaefer.

Without the broad reduction in state aid to the local governments, the cuts in government services to offset a severe shortfall of tax and other state revenue would be much deeper and would mean the loss of some 2,500 filled state jobs, Mr. Schaefer warned.

But he said he was confident that General Assembly members would go along with his plan to cut the $150 million from local governments, preventing the more drastic retrenchment in state government.

Mr. Schaefer and his aides said they hope to get a firm commitment from the General Assembly leadership and a plan for absorbing the local cuts from local officials by Oct. 1. The plan could be taken to the Board of Public Works for approval before the end of September, with any layoffs effective Nov. 1.

The governor's preferred program, the one dependent on the $150 million cut in local aid, nevertheless would:

* Wipe out all Medicaid care for some 23,000 poor people whose coverage is totally paid for by the state.

* End a variety of "optional" programs now available to all Medicaid recipients, including vision and dental care and physical therapy services.

* Not only delay indefinitely an increase in welfare benefits for a family of three from $377 a month to $401 a month that had been scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, but actually reduce monthly benefits for those in the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program to the 1988 level of $159 a month.

* Benefits for disabled, unemployable adults under the General Public Assistance program would be reduced 25 percent, from $181 a month to $150.

* The University of Maryland system would be cut by $19 million, forcing spring tuition increases ranging from 3 to 7 percent.

* State aid to private colleges and universities would be axed by 12 percent, and scholarships to 300 Maryland students attending out-of-state schools eliminated.

The governor said he attempted to prioritize state programs by retaining those that helped citizens the most, followed by education programs from kindergarten through college. But he noted that the state has already trimmed more than $1 billion from the budget in seven previous rounds of reductions over the past two years.

"We've been to the well now seven times," he said.

The governor's budget aids did not identify precisely which jobs would be eliminated or in which departments, saying those figures are still being compiled.

"They'll be spread throughout state government," said deputy budget secretary Frederick Puddester.

In addition, another 880 vacant state jobs also would be eliminated.

Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services, said his agency is trying to get by with 500 vacancies in prison guard positions and another 143 in the state police.

One potential effect of the budget reductions is that a new 400-bed minimum security housing unit expected to open at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County this coming spring may have to be delayed for lack of staff, he said.

Mr. Schaefer said some people wrongly claimed he was trying to "dramatize" the situation by suggesting such deep cuts.

"I'm not doing it for dramatization," he said. "You do it because there is no alternative to doing what you have to do."

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