- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

BOSTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) — More state workers are expected to lose their jobs as various New England states grapple with budget deficits.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is targeting an "excessive" number of lawyers on the state payroll, and Maine Gov. John Baldacci says some 325 jobs will be cut, although half of those are already vacant.

In his budget address Wednesday night, however, Baldacci said almost half of the 160 employees losing their jobs would get other positions.

Although Maine faces a $1.1-billion deficit in the coming $5-billion, two-year budget, Baldacci pledged not to raise taxes.

While more specific details of his budget plan won't be released until Friday, Baldacci said his proposal includes cuts in social services, including combining the Department of Human Services and the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services.

"Maine people are watching and waiting and we can't let them down," Baldacci said. "They are looking to us to bring our state through this financial ice storm."

Baldacci also said he plans to use the state's bonding power to pay for some initiatives, including a $70-million economic development bond issue.

Clearing the way for debate on the new budget, Maine lawmakers Wednesday began the process of working with the governor by adopting a $44-million supplemental budget that closes the gap for the 2003 fiscal year, the Kennebec Journal reported.

In Connecticut, an expected vote on a deficit-cutting bill Wednesday night in the Democratic-controlled Legislature was delayed until later Thursday.

The bill to help close a $650-million deficit would raise some taxes and cut spending.

A stumbling block is Republican Gov. John G. Rowland's dispute over 2,800 state workers laid off because the unions refused to agree to wage and benefit concessions.

Rowland has refused to sign a bill to reinstate all those employees, while the majority Democrats have refused to agree to legislation that does anything less, the Hartford Courant reported.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, Republican Gov. Romney is facing criticism for his plans to reduce the state's workforce as he tries to deal with a projected $3-billion deficit in the coming fiscal year.

A union that represents 14,000 state workers has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against him, alleging he illegally laid off 21 press secretaries last week.

The National Association of Government Employees also threatened to file another complaint if the governor fails to negotiate with it before making cuts in the number of lawyers working for the state.

Romney has said the 800 lawyers his administration found in state employ is just too many, and plans to lay off some of them.

"We simply can't afford any form of waste," the governor said.

He said he wants to consolidate all state lawyers into one department, saving up to $30 million of the $50 million now spent on attorneys, overhead and their staffs.

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