ANNAPOLIS, NOV. 20 -- Fiscal experts told a committee of Maryland legislators today that they see the state's economy declining steadily.

"We are carefully monitoring our economic data, but we have not seen much good news," said Charles J. Benton Jr., secretary of the Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning.

"The continuing downslide of the economy is evident in any part of the state," said William S. Ratchford III, director of the Department of Fiscal Services.

From July through September, sales tax receipts grew only 1 percent from the same period last year. The receipts actually were lower in October 1990 than in October 1989, Ratchford said. Income tax receipts, the largest single component of Maryland's budget, were expected under revised estimates to increase by 5.75 percent in the first quarter. In reality, income tax receipts grew at the rate of 2.75 percent, he said.

Benton, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget secretary, appeared today before a Senate-House committee that will set an informal limit next week on the growth of next year's state budget. Though he urged the committee not to tie the governor's hands with an overly restrictive spending ceiling, Benton had some bad news to deliver.

In September, Benton estimated that the total shortfall in this year's budget could reach $180 million, and Schaefer acted last week to cut that much in spending. Today, however, Benton said the deficit could be an additional $100 million in Maryland's $11.5 billion budget.

"We have a serious revenue shortfall . . . with weakness in sales, individual income tax and corporate income tax," Benton said.

But Benton said he is not as pessimistic as Ratchford, who works for the General Assembly. He said that Ratchford is forecasting the slowest growth in personal income in 20 years. "We regard that to be at the low end of the reasonable range," Benton said.

Benton said state agencies have been told that spending will be below this year's outlays and that they will have to absorb about $150 million in inflation-related costs.

"The inevitable results will be program reductions," Benton said. Later, he added, "Under the current revenue outlook, we will be hard-pressed to fund {even} a no-growth budget."