Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Maryland's first Republican chief executive in more than three decades, predicted yesterday that the Democrats who control the General Assembly and interest groups accustomed to favored treatment under his predecessor will not be happy when he unveils his budget today.
"There's going to be a thousand questions tomorrow: Why'd you fund this? Why didn't you fund that?" Ehrlich said during an impromptu news conference outside his State House office. "I heard some of the groups who really held sway here, who basically had it all their way for eight years, are upset -- groups that ran attack ads against us -- were just shocked that they weren't included" in the budget process.
"Well, election results bring repercussions," Ehrlich said. "And they haven't come home to this town in years."
Ehrlich specifically mentioned environmental activists and the Maryland State Teachers Association, two groups that ran radio ads supporting his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Ehrlich also mentioned the Maryland chapter of the National Restaurant Association, which endorsed Townsend but has donated $6,000 to Ehrlich's campaign since Nov. 5.
Ehrlich declined to say what repercussions those groups should expect. He said the change in political philosophy from his predecessor, Parris N. Glendening, a liberal Democrat, to himself, a moderate Republican, would naturally bring "some changes they're not going to like."
In general, Ehrlich offered no new details of his budget plan, which must close a record gap of nearly $1.7 billion between estimated revenue and projected spending over two years. Ehrlich has said that the plan would slash thousands of vacant state jobs and cut spending on higher education but also pour more money into some of his priority programs, fully fund an expansion of state aid to public schools and not close any state agencies.
Ehrlich is expected to propose funding his budget with transfers from various state accounts, including the primary road fund, spending cuts and proceeds from legalizing slot machines. He has vowed not to raise sales or income taxes.
On his first full day on the job, Ehrlich rolled into the State House well after noon, looking a little bleary-eyed from a late night of inaugural fun. He said he attended two black-tie balls at Camden Yards and the Baltimore Convention Center late Wednesday, then stayed up until 3:30 a.m. with Princeton pals who arranged a private party at a Baltimore restaurant.
A budget briefing was the first item on his agenda, he said, when he woke about 9 a.m. yesterday at a hotel in Baltimore. After making a few calls, Ehrlich stopped by his Timonium townhouse, dropped off his wife, Kendel, and headed to Annapolis. He climbed the marble stairs of the State House to his second-floor office shortly before 1:30 p.m.
After chatting with reporters, Ehrlich entered the governor's office just after 2 p.m., the second time he had ever set foot in that inner sanctum. The first time, he said, was in the late 1980s when then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D) summoned Ehrlich to the office "to yell at me."
After Ehrlich sat down in the blue leather chair that Glendening recently vacated, he set about opening various gifts tucked in the desk: a box of golf balls engraved with the words "Gov. Ehrlich"; a brown teddy bear for his son, Drew, 3; a note from Glendening telling Ehrlich that "this will be the most exciting and rewarding job you'll ever have."
After checking out the private bathroom, admiring the gas logs in the fireplace and mulling whether the rosy wallpaper was a good match for the Persian carpet, Ehrlich got down to business. He signed three "non-controversial" executive orders and met with aides to talk about filling out the rest of his Cabinet.
Elsewhere, his administration continued to dismiss key state staff members.
Shortly before Ehrlich was inaugurated at noon Wednesday, notices of dismissal were delivered to Teresa L. Kaiser, executive director of the Child Support Enforcement Administration, and her boss, deputy secretary Lois Whitaker, ordering them to leave their Baltimore offices within the hour, Kaiser said. After packing up, Kaiser said, she was escorted to her car about 4 p.m.
Kaiser, who has also headed child-support offices in Idaho and Missouri, increased child-support collections significantly during her three years in Maryland. Last year, she drew attention for publicly questioning the performance of Maximus Inc., a private company that handles child-support enforcement in Baltimore. Maximus donated $10,000 to Ehrlich's inaugural fund.
Neither Ehrlich's designated appointments secretary, Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., nor Bruce C. Bereano, a strong Ehrlich backer who represents Maximus, returned phone calls yesterday. Earlier this week the administration delivered dismissal notices to 30 other top staff members.
Reached at home, Kaiser was still in tears over the manner of her firing.
"People walked me to my car. I had a $60 million budget. . . . Like what am I going to do -- steal a pencil?" she said. "That was humiliating. And it was so unnecessary. I am not the enemy."
Ehrlich closed out his first day on the job with a trip to the fights in Glen Burnie. He arrived at nightfall at Michael's Eighth Avenue about 8:30 p.m. with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and an entourage of staff members from his office.
As Ehrlich took his seat in the second row, a steady stream of well-wishers wandered by, offering handshakes and asking the new governor to pose for photos.
"You wouldn't see Parris Glendening here," shouted a tall guy with a beer. "I guarantee you that."
Staff writers Craig Whitlock and Jo Becker contributed to this report.