A procession of Maryland officials sharply criticized the Reagan administration's budget cuts today but told a congressional committee they have been able to cope with some of the cuts by trimming expenses, juggling funds and relying on private sources.
Their message received a sympathetic ear from the sponsors of the hearing, 17 Democratic members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committeee who came here on the first of a series of "field" hearings that will be held around the country to measure the impact of the cuts.
The committee's 11 Republicans are boycotting the hearings, billed by chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) as the first outside Washington in the committee's history. "Maybe they're embarrassed to show up," said Rostenkowski after the 3 1/2-hour hearing in City Hall chambers.
Rep. Barber Conable (R-N.Y.), the committee's ranking Republican, had another explanation for staying away from what he called "a purely political exercise."
"Their the Democrats' purpose is to attack the program of the Reagan administration," he said. "We have no desire to participate in that."
While criticizing the impact of the cuts on the elderly and unemployed, some of the witnesses made it clear they grudgingly are finding ways to cope with at least some of the cuts.
Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer, for example, has formed a businessman's group, termed "Blue Chip-In" to replace $500,000 in social programs trimmed by the Reagan administration. The Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. is undertaking a weatherization program using former CETA workers. Another program, which supplies emergency winter wear -- coats, sleeping bags and gloves -- is being salvaged by the Noxell Corp.
Gov. Harry Hughes decried the "breathtaking breakneck speed" of the cuts, but testified he is transferring money from other funds to maintain "effective" programs for crippled children, alcoholism and drug addiction.
Charles R. Buck Jr., secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, conceded that the $3 million in Medicaid funds Maryland expects to lose can be absorbed, but then issued a warning.
"If further cuts are imposed -- such as those recently proposed by Secretary Schweiker's entitlements task force -- or the Medicaid cap idea is revived," he said, "we will not be able to continue to provide Medicaid coverage for indigent Maryland residents."
Schaefer, in an exercised and impassioned speech against the cuts his city is sustaining, said "The business community can't take up the slack."
The commitee plans four more field hearings in December and January, in St. Louis, Detroit and two West Coast cities.