It calls for nearly $800-million in potential cuts.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee got a look on Tuesday at the "Doomsday" budget. The plan contains $800-million in cuts which could affect education, health, environmental programs and aid to local governments, as well as the elimination of 500 state government jobs. The reductions are designed to help close a projected $1.1-billion structural deficit. It's an alternative plan to Governor Martin O'Malley's proposed budget which contains savings and revenue increases.
"This is not a scare tactic," State Senate President Mike Miller tells the Associated Press. "The Governor's proposed budget, it's got revenues as well as cuts. You've got three options--revenues, cuts or a combination of both, and this what we're going to come up with if we can't come up with an agreement."
Frederick County State Senator David Brinkley, who sits on the Budget and Taxation Committee, isn't ready to call it a "Doomsday" Budget. "I'm not so certain that these are 'doomsday' proposals," he says. "I'm of the opinion that these are things that seriously should be considered, and they don't necessarily need be adopted across the board. But we have to have the department heads and the agencies look critically at where they're spending the taxpayer's money."
One proposal calls for the elimination of 500 jobs in state government. Brinkley says there are real people, not positions left vacant in anticipation that they would be filled at a future date. "We have had that budget exercise go through at the county and the town levels and all that stuff. But these would be live bodies, and that's a very critical concern for us," he says.
Another part of the "Doomsday" budget includes splitting teacher pension costs with counties, which could save the state $239-million. The state currently pays the entire cost, and the counties have balked at taking on this extra expense. Senator Brinkley says so far during this economic slowdown, teachers have been exempt from layoffs and salary reductions, unlike their fellow citizens in the private sector. "It's okay to complain. But the fact is when you look at what's gone on in other parts of the economy and other employees, they've had it pretty good," he says.
State budget officials say many of the cuts in aid to local governments will affect the larger jurisdictions in Maryland, such as Prince George's and Montgomery Counties, and Baltimore city.
Many of these discussions are taking place due to the slow economy. While it looks like the economy is starting to pick up, Senator Brinkley says sales and income tax revenues are on the downward side. "That's not good from a budgetary point of view," he says. "But it also reflective of what Maryland families, taxpayers, are experiencing. Because the economy is not turning around despite some of the optimistic news that Washington wants to put out."
Cutting the budget this year will be challenging, thanks to years of lean economic times. Options for saving money have become very limited. "I am not going to say that the world will come to an end if all this came to pass, but it would be a different world for public services in the state," says Walter Deschenaux, the chief budget expert in Annapolis.
Senator Brinkley says the Budget and Taxation Committee is expected to vote on the "Doomsday" budget on Thursday. It will be considered by the full Senate next week.