ANNAPOLIS, NOV. 27 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer today raised the possibility of layoffs of state workers as the legislature's top budget officers voted to adopt the strictest limit on state spending since the recession of the early 1980s.

Schaefer already has pared nearly $180 million from the current year's planned spending and may have to cut another $100 million to prevent a deficit. Today, he said: "If the economic trend continues, we may have to give thought to furloughs and layoffs. We may also look at some early retirements."

His statements came shortly after a nervous Spending Affordability Committee voted for a tough spending limit. The joint committee of legislative budget leaders said state spending should not expand more than 5.1 percent in the budget Schaefer submits to the legislature in January. (Over the last five years, the panel's recommended growth rates have ranged from 7 to almost 9 percent.) Other than a higher gasoline tax, the panel said, additional taxes should be "a last resort."

"The message is: This isn't the time to think about expansion of state government; it's a time for contraction," said Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee.

Schaefer, who has often feuded with lawmakers over spending limits, responded that he will try to live within the guidelines. "There will be anguish and cries," the governor said. "Some programs that are needed just won't be there."

The governor said he is not planning to include requests for new taxes in his next budget.

Virtually all of Maryland's suburban counties are taking steps now to cut spending as the economy slows and tax revenue stagnates. Until today, however, Schaefer has staunchly opposed layoffs among the 70,000 state workers. Charles L. Benton, the budget secretary, indicated that hundreds of layoffs could come in the next budget.

Amid the economic gloom, Schaefer continued today to shake up his administration in preparation for his second term, which begins in January. During a news conference, Schaefer announced that Earl F. Seboda, secretary of general services, is retiring. Replacing him in the position that oversees state construction and buildings will be Martin W. Walsh Jr., now secretary of the environment. Walsh will be succeeded by his deputy, Robert Perciasepe.

Two weeks ago Schaefer had requested resignations from about 100 top appointed officials in the administration, including the 13 Cabinet secretaries and their deputies. In announcing that he had accepted Seboda's resignation, Schaefer said there will be other departures, but declined to say whether there will be others by Cabinet secretaries.

Seboda, who also served in the Cabinet of Schaefer's predecessor, Harry Hughes, has been roundly criticized for his handling of construction at the trouble-plagued Eastern Correctional Institution.

Also today, Schaefer hinted broadly at some of his plans for the year ahead. He said he will seek to change the parole process so that inmate time in prison more closely correlates to sentences. He also questioned why there has been an increase in the number of Maryland residents getting probation before judgment for drunken-driving convictions. Without providing details, the governor also said he hopes to find ways to make individuals, rather than the state and federal governments, more financially responsible for health care.

"We're going to do what we have to do," Schaefer said. "The general public is saying they want all the services but they don't want us to spend all the money to do it."

One of the answers to Schaefer's financial problems is expected to be offered Wednesday when his Commission on State Taxes and Tax Structure gives final approval to an $800 million package of new and expanded taxes.

A draft of findings by the commission, headed by Montgomery County lawyer R. Robert Linowes, was circulated 10 days ago. It immediately generated opposition from areas such as Montgomery because taxes would rise steeply on high-income individuals and much of the proceeds would be diverted to poorer counties and Baltimore.

If the state doesn't act to help poorer jurisdictions, Schaefer said today, "We'll be paying for it in different ways -- with dropouts, drugs, poor education {and} poor housing . . . . "