ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 8 -- The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee today criticized Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to make some of his cabinet secretaries among the highest paid in the nation, with one senator saying that is not the place for Maryland to be "number one."

The committee took no action on the request, but some members questioned the need for the increases that would raise some salaries to more than $100,000, and would mean pay raises to some cabinet members of nearly $30,000.

A committee staff report said Schaefer's two-tiered cabinet pay plan would set salaries at the top tier at $101,300, which would make them, if not the top, at least among the highest-paid secretaries in the nation.

"I see no reason why we should be the leader," said Sen. Julian L. Lapides, (D-Baltimore). "I do not think we should rank number one in that particular area."

Schaefer's plan would increase the salaries for nine of his cabinet members from $70,700 to $83,000. A 4 percent cost-of-living increase, which all state employees are scheduled to receive, would raise the salary to $86,400.

The secretaries of the Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, now paid $72,700, would be added to the higher-paid tier, which includes the secretaries of corrections, economic development and transportation. Secretaries in the higher tier now are paid $97,400. The cost-of-living increase would make those salaries $101,300. Schaefer also is recommending that the state superintendent of schools be given a raise from $72,700 to $101,300.

Secretary of Personnel Hilda Ford defended the proposed pay increases, saying they reflect the responsibility assigned to each secretary and are necessary for the state to hire competent professionals. Sen. John A. Cade (R-Anne Arundel) agreed to a point, but said some of the secretaries are "political appointees."

An analysis of the request by the Department of Fiscal Services said the change would make salaries in the top tier of Maryland officials higher than those of their counterparts in any of Maryland's neighboring states, and in New York and New Jersey. It also would be more than federal cabinet officials are paid.

Maryland secretaries in the lower tier would be paid less than their counterparts in other states.

The report suggested that the higher-paid secretaries not automatically receive the cost-of-living increase, an idea that committee Vice Chairman Francis X. Kelly (D-Baltimore County) seemed to like. "It will be hard to stomach salaries of over $100,000," he said.