Maryland plans to rely heavily on public-employee layoffs and other payroll reductions to trim state spending by 2 percent next year, according to plans released last week.
State Budget and Management Secretary David R. Brinkley outlined the cuts in a letter to legislative leaders, saying the state will eliminate 274 positions as part of a blueprint for saving $118 million overall.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the General Assembly agreed this year to cut expenditures across state agencies by 2 percent to help deal with an estimated $1.7 billion deficit over the next four years. The specific reductions, most of them developed by the administration, will not require legislative approval.
“The reality of our financial situation requires us to find ways to work together in order to curb long term spending and protect the interests of taxpayers,” Brinkley’s letter said.
The largest personnel savings will come from the University System of Maryland, which has to account for about $25 million in reductions.
Under the administration’s outline, first reported by the Associated Press, the university system will lay off 40 employees, eliminate 125 vacant positions, reduce the number of personnel working part time or on contract, and replace four faculty members with new hires who would be paid lower salaries. Those savings will amount to $18 million.
The university system, which includes 12 schools and 152,000 students, will save an additional $7 million by trimming other expenses, such as travel costs and information-technology initiatives, according to the plan.
“The USM has been rigorous in finding budget solutions, and will continue to address the budget challenges with a respect for the need to maintain core and critical services that support the educational mission of students,” Mike Lurie, a spokesman for the university network, said in a statement.
Hogan’s office distanced itself from the university cuts on Tuesday, noting that the system, which is not part of the executive branch, was responsible for developing that portion of the savings plan.
“The governor’s office did not dictate to them how to reach their goals,” Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said.
The remaining cuts — for executive-branch agencies — came from the administration.
The Department of Human Resources accounts for the second-largest personnel savings, with 82 vacant positions set for elimination. Overall, the agency is expected to cut nearly $7 million in spending.
The largest financial savings would come from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which will trim about $27 million. Most of the savings will come from programs that give reimbursements to providers.
The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will cut its spending by about $24 million, accounting for the third-highest financial reduction for the state.
The largest savings for that department, $5.6 million, reflects a drop-off in costs because of a continuing decline in the state’s inmate population.
The other reductions include $3.5 million from ending roll call for corrections officers between shifts; $1.9 million in savings from closing the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center this year; and $1 million from increasing the officers’ shifts from eight hours to 10 hours.
The state will have to negotiate with the corrections officers’ union to enact the roll-call and shift changes.
Both plans have prompted safety concerns. Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of the Maryland Public Employees Local 44, which represents the state’s corrections officers, told The Baltimore Sun that officers use roll calls to brief each other before and after their shifts, and many are worried about the possibility of working longer hours in a stressful job.