Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday ruled out yet another proposed cut in social service spending that was supposed to help state officials balance the state budget and promised to continue funding of centers for troubled juveniles.
After touring the Harundale Youth and Family Center in Glen Burnie, Schaefer said he would not accept a proposal to eliminate state assistance that probably would have led to the closing of the facility and 21 others across Maryland. Officials had suggested the cut to save $3.5 million over the next 18 months.
"I'm going to find the money," Schaefer said in promising to keep the centers open at least through June. "I'm going to save this program. That you can bet on."
Despite the need to cut at least $423 million for this year's planned spending, Schaefer in recent days has backtracked on a variety of proposals -- some already approved -- to save money.
Last week, the governor reversed himself and pledged to continue funding a kidney dialysis program after being confronted by medical specialists and at least one kidney patient. Also, the governor promised to maintain a program that helps the working poor and elderly on fixed incomes pay for medical prescriptions. Those cuts, about $6 million, had been approved by the Board of Public Works.
In addition, the governor said he would not follow through on a plan to reduce financial aid to Maryland college students this year. Under pressure from leading legislators, Schaefer retreated two weeks ago from ordering the layoff of as many as 1,800 state employees after saying that some firings were unavoidable.
"Most chief executives make tough decisions and stick to them," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). "Governor Schaefer, being a people-oriented person, I think might find it more difficult to make tough budget cuts than have some of his predecessors."
Del. Charles J. Ryan (D-Prince George's), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said yesterday it is difficult to tell which way the budget process is moving.
"Every time they mention something, the particular constituency comes forward and says, 'No, don't cut us,' " Ryan said.
A spokesman for the governor said Schaefer made his decision to continue funding the juvenile service bureaus after being deluged with letters from parents and children who had visited the centers.
The youth services bureaus, including five in Prince George's County and four in Montgomery, are designed to counsel children and their families before the children enter the juvenile justice system. They provide suicide prevention counseling and attempt to prevent teenage pregnancies. The state pays for 75 percent of the program and local governments pay the rest.