ANNAPOLIS, NOV. 15 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, trying to head off a budget deficit, announced spending cuts today that strike hardest at the University of Maryland and health programs for the poor.
Schaefer and the Board of Public Works approved $127 million in spending reductions and announced that an additional $50 million has been shifted from other projects to help prevent a deficit in the $11.5 billion state budget.
But the governor predicted that more cuts will be needed as Maryland slides toward recession with the rest of the Mid-Atlantic states. Legislative analysts contend that at least $322 million would have to be trimmed from this year's spending to balance the budget.
The cuts announced today do not force layoffs or furloughs in the state work force, and will not touch main welfare programs or aid to local schools. Instead, the administration relied heavily on a hiring freeze, eliminating vehicle and equipment purchases and curtailing official travel.
The biggest reductions were ordered for the largest agencies, the University of Maryland system and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
In the health department, $11.3 million was cut from services. About 14,000 poor people will lose state assistance in filling prescriptions and more than 3,000 disabled people will no longer get state-financed personal care in their homes. "Everything that is cut is going to hurt," Schaefer said. "There are things we won't be able to do in the future."
Lynda Meade, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Alliance for the Poor, acknowledged that the governor has been forced to make distasteful decisions.
"But when times are tough, often those who are the most vulnerable and the poorest feel the effects," Meade said. "I hope the departments look for ways to absorb people into other types of programs."
Additionally, the state will trim $13.6 million from the amount it pays hospitals and nursing homes for treating the poor. Charles Benton, state budget secretary, said health care providers consider it a "bitter pill to swallow."
The university system was forced to cut $38 million from its budget, about half of that through a hiring freeze and cutting equipment purchases. Schaefer warned the Board of Regents not to make up for the cut by increasing tuition and fees.
"If I find increases in tuition this time, I will make a strong recommendation that their budget be decreased," Schaefer said. "I mean it."
Benton noted that rising unemployment and a slumping economy have cut deeply into projections for income tax and sales tax revenue.
"It's going to be much tighter," Schaefer said.