O'Malley plays down prospect of more cuts

Expect array of `efficiencies,' he says

January 04, 2008|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

CAMBRIDGE -- Gov. Martin O'Malley played down the prospect of more major slashes in "big-ticket" public programs, saying last night that the next round of spending cuts required to balance the state budget will probably come from finding "efficiencies" in an array of government operations.

"I think we're going to be sore-pressed to find one or two cuts that add up to $200 million," said O'Malley, a Democrat, after speaking to local elected officials and government workers at the Maryland Association of Counties winter conference. "More likely, we will find 200 efficiencies that will each add up to a million dollars."

When it goes into session next week, the General Assembly and the governor will probably have to come up with additional spending reductions to augment the $1.3 billion tax package ushered through in November's special session.

Despite the prospect of more belt-tightening, O'Malley told the local government representatives that the "dark cloud" of catastrophic budget cuts had evaporated and that it was time to "start talking about the future."

He was short on specifics during and after his address but said that among his legislative priorities are improvements to public safety, the environment and transportation.

"There will also be a lot of good ideas that come from the legislature itself," he said, "and from individual leaders who perhaps had put off some idea that they wanted to push until we could resolve the huge financial crush we inherited."

After being officially installed as the new president of the local government association, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said that among the legislative priorities for the counties are speed-monitoring cameras to make roads safer and state funding for school renovation and construction.

Michael Sanderson, legislative director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said local governments stand to lose about $250 million because of bills passed during the special session but that most counties are relieved that the damage was not far worse.

"There's no way to deny it could have gotten an awful lot worse," Sanderson said.

Some local jurisdictions will probably implement spending cuts or offset reduced state funding through increased local taxes or other revenue increases, he said.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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