O'Malley Prepares Spending Trims Totaling $300 Million
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Gov. Martin O'Malley prepared yesterday to propose more than $300 million in mid-year budget cuts amid signs that Maryland's fiscal outlook is continuing to worsen and questions about whether the cuts are deep enough.
O'Malley (D) plans to present a wide array of cuts this morning, including reductions in some education and public safety programs, to the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel authorized to reduce the budget when the legislature is not in session.
O'Malley and lawmakers indicated that today's cuts will probably be the first in a series of budget reductions in coming weeks as Maryland continues to grapple with a serious decline in tax revenue because of the sagging economy.
Legislative analysts said yesterday that they are projecting a shortfall of $1.3 billion in next year's budget, up from an estimate of about $1 billion a few weeks ago. Cuts made to this year's budget by the Board of Public Works should bring that figure down slightly, as some cuts will carry over into the next fiscal year.
O'Malley did not release a final list of today's proposed cuts, but aides indicated that most reductions would be taken from a memo recently produced by O'Malley's budget secretary.
The memo includes about 100 options, totaling almost $400 million, which would affect services including higher education, community colleges and social programs that provide child-care subsidies and drug treatment.
Aides said O'Malley would also propose reductions in recent increases to state payments to nursing homes, physicians and other health-care providers.
"Unfortunately, we have to make some adjustments," O'Malley told reporters. "It's going to cause some pain and discomfort all around."
Some legislators, who were briefed on the cuts yesterday, wondered whether O'Malley should be reducing the budget more quickly.
"We need to make cuts more severe at the present time," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). "By making cuts now, we make easier our cuts in the future."
Miller said he understood O'Malley's reticence, however.
"It's just very difficult for him as a chief executive to undo progress," Miller said. "Significant cuts, to him, seem like a step backwards, which is what they are."