The Senate Budget Committee, standing fast against a threat by Gov. Harry Hughes to withhold millions of dollars in aid to Baltimore and Montgomery County, refused today to overturn its $35.7 million across-the-board cut in Hughes' budget.
None of the members of the 13-member committee, which had voted 8 to 5 a week ago in favor of the reduction, changed his vote today, despite threats from the governor that he would not consider submitting a supplemental budget containing road funds for Montgomery and police aid for Baltimore unless the cut was rescinded.
The $35.7 million cut is equivalent to 2 percent of Maryland's total state payroll and employe fringe benefits, and is to be implemented by reducing the state work force either by attrition, reductions in force or cutting overtime. The reduction is equal to about 1,600 of the state's 83,000 jobs and would not affect a 4 percent salary increase scheduled to go into effect July 1.
Responding to the vote by the budget committee tonight, Hughes said: "I'll reconsider my position too. It's the same position: no supplemental budget."
Hughes' reaction surprised committee members who said today that the governor would not exact retribution for the budget cut.
"In every other year," said Sen. Julian L. Lapides (D-Baltimore), "the governor has submitted a supplemental budget funded by cuts made by the legislature. To hold us hostage if we make this cut would be vindictive."
Sen. Stewart Bainum Jr. (D-Montgomery), the other member of the panel who had been under pressure to switch his vote to preserve local aid funds -- including millions for road improvements in the northern part of his county -- described the cut as a reasonable response to a budget review process that he called "a joke, a charade."
"All this says is we believe the governor and agency managers can increase their productivity by 2 percent," said Bainum. "If they can't, they don't deserve the raises we give them."
Last year, Hughes responded to a $20 million cut by the committee by publicly inviting constituencies that might be affected to lobby the committee.