President Bush told Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday he remains "optimistic" that budget negotiators will reach agreement before automatic across-the-board cuts are triggered under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law.

Schaefer spoke briefly with the president after Bush finished a round of golf at Holly Hills Country Club south of Frederick. The Maryland Democrat, who drove over to the golf course to pay a courtesy call on the president, said he was increasingly concerned about the potential impact of massive budget cuts on the Maryland economy and wanted to urge Bush to "keep the pressure on" the negotiators.

"He said, 'I'm optimistic that we'll get a deal,' and then he added, 'I hope it's a good one,' " Schaefer said of his conversation with Bush.

Bush did not speak to reporters at the course.

Schaefer said he feared that Maryland would take "a very heavy hit" if the automatic cuts take effect, principally because of the large number of federal workers who live in Maryland.

"If this goes into effect, the impact on state and localities will be enormous," Schaefer said.

Although he said he had no advice for the president on how to spur the negotiators, other than to maintain pressure, he said he opposed the proposal by the Republicans to cap deductions of state and local income taxes.