ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 25 -- Leaders of the Maryland House of Delegates said today they will forgo salary increases this year and promised to help other legislators who want to return their $2,000 raises to bolster the sagging state budget.
"Dozens of Democrats came to us and said they were concerned about the state's fiscal problems and they want to help out," Majority Leader Bruce Poole (D-Frederick-Washington) said.
Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent) said he will devise a way that House members may give the raise back to the state general fund or donate it directly to charity.
With the four-year terms that began this month, the pay for legislators went up from $25,000 to $27,000. As a presiding officer, Mitchell's pay went from $32,000 to $37,000.
Although it is not expected, if all House members returned their pay to the state, the total would come to $379,000.
Pressure to give up the raises has been building on elected officials as they have cut more than $423 million from the state's current budget and have prepared to deny salary increases to state employees next year.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) praised the House leaders' action but said he will talk with other Senate leaders before deciding whether to follow suit.
"I just want to make certain that nobody demagogues this and that people do this because they are motivated by the best of reasons and not solely for political purposes," Miller said.
Already, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein has decided to return $5,000 of his pay raise. His salary still will rise from $72,500 to $95,000.
One state official who won't be giving up his additional take-home pay is Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The governor began his new term with a raise from $85,000 to $120,000.
After the House announcement today, Schaefer's spokesman said the governor "will not defer his increase in salary that was approved by the legislature" last year.
Defending the decision, press secretary Paul Schurick added, "The governor is not a millionaire, and he feels he is compensated fairly."
Even before the flurry of legislative generosity today, some lawmakers had individually said they would not accept the higher salaries.
The senator and three delegates from Prince George's County's 25th District said earlier they will forgo raises.
"We've cut education, health care, welfare," said Sen. Albert R. Wynn (D-Prince George's). "We're saying that we're willing to share the unpleasantness."
Wynn, a lawyer, said the cuts would be largely symbolic.
"But they're real to my pocketbook," he said.