ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 2 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer lashed out today at what he called the "criers and whiners" who are forecasting deepening economic problems in the state budget.

"I know we've got trouble, but the state doesn't have to push the panic button," Schaefer told reporters. "It's not time to say we can't do anything."

Schaefer's criticisms came as legislative analysts and economists from the University of Maryland issued reports predicting a gloomier immediate future for the state and its budget than has been forecast so far by the administration's experts.

In a report to budget leaders in the General Assembly, legislative analysts said the projected deficit in this year's budget would be $249 million and could rise to more than $300 million next year unless steps are taken to cut spending or raise revenue. The administration contends that the projected deficit this year will not exceed $200 million.

Earlier this week, two University of Maryland economists forecast slowing economic growth and rising unemployment in Maryland over the next year.

The study by Mahlon R. Straszheim and Lorraine Sullivan Monaco said the state, no longer recession-proof, is entering a period of higher inflation and increasing uncertainty. The growth rates in personal income and retail sales tax receipts could be half the rates of the late 1980s, the economists said.

The Schaefer administration is searching for about $180 million in spending cuts in the current $11.5 billion budget and says that estimates by the legislative Department of Fiscal Services are overly pessimistic.

Dennis H. Parkinson, Schaefer's deputy budget director, said today that the legislative experts are overreacting and have been wrong in previous projections.

Parkinson said the state can save up to $150 million this year by refusing to fill most of the current and expected vacancies in the state work force. The state also has canceled purchase of 350 vehicles for the State Police, saving $6 million in the current budget, he said.

Even in the worst case, Parkinson said, the administration's estimates are not as high as the independent deficit projections. "And we don't think we're going to be in that situation," he added.

Schaefer sought to minimize the dimensions of Maryland's fiscal problem as he seeks ways to live within the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.

"We're going to make adjustments of $150 million to $200 million, and it'll be some pain," Schaefer said. "But it's a pain that can be taken care of with a Bayer aspirin rather than taken care of by 10 Tylenols."

He also criticized the university economists: "I wonder what we pay these guys for," he said. "I could write a stupid report. What we need is something to do to help."

The legislative committee that ultimately will establish a spending ceiling for the General Assembly heard reports today from its staff on the budget outlook.

William S. Ratchford, director of the Department of Fiscal Services, said private economic forecasters expect rising unemployment and a further economic slowdown, situations that are made worse by the Middle East crisis and rapid escalation in oil prices.

"This may not be pessimistic enough," Ratchford said, adding that the coming 36 to 40 months may not return the boom economy Maryland enjoyed through much of the last decade.

During the hearing, H. Furlong Baldwin, president of Mercantile Bank in Baltimore, one of Maryland's largest banks, strongly urged lawmakers to be cautious in spending.

"This is not the year for heroes," he said. "If you ever err on the conservative side, it should be this year and next year. I've never seen a time {like this} when we don't see the bottom. This is a very difficult environment."