- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley said yesterday that he will trim the state budget by $200 million by imposing layoffs and cutting overtime for state employees.

“The reality is some layoffs will be necessary,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat. “Where they will be, I don’t know yet.”

Mr. O’Malley ordered his Cabinet to reduce work force costs, look for savings in government purchases and help consolidate redundant boards and commissions.

Maryland faces a $1.5 billion structural deficit next year.

Agencies will receive budget reduction targets that will average 2.5 percent across state government.

Mr. O’Malley said he expects Cabinet members to have answers for him within 30 days.

Republican lawmakers said the budget cuts are a prelude to a call for tax increases.

“Last week, you’re saying you’re going to freeze tuition again, and now you’re telling other people their jobs are on the line,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, Frederick Republican. “It’s the first wave; there’s going to be lots of pain.”

Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert County Republican, called the proposed cuts “woefully inadequate” and questioned where the O’Malley administration would find the rest of the money.

“Unless they’re planing on massive tax increases, I would say it’s too little, too late, woefully inadequate and maybe just window dressing,” he said.

The governor has been criticized for failing to address the deficit during his first General Assembly session.

Among the options were government cuts, tax increases and the legalization of slot machines to generate revenue. Instead of negotiating a long-term fix, Mr. O’Malley chose to transfer $1.2 billion from state reserves.

The governor did not say yesterday whether he would call state lawmakers to Annapolis for a special General Assembly session.

The overtime cuts and layoffs will hit one of Mr. O’Malley’s strongest supporters: organized labor.

Mr. O’Malley said he has not talked with the state’s union leaders but thinks they will support his decision.

“We didn’t see it coming,” said Sue Esty, interim executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Maryland. “It really translates into a reduction of important services.”

Mr. O’Malley said public safety agencies — including state police, corrections and juvenile services — would be spared the toughest cuts, though this sector accrued the largest overtime costs in 2006.

The state spent $125 million last year in overtime.

Democratic leaders said they anticipated too many cost savings through Mr. O’Malley’s StateSat program, similar to the system he used while mayor of Baltimore.

“I’m not as enthusiastic suggesting that we’re going to find those inefficiencies in state government,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

Other budget leaders said the cuts will be a good first step, but will hardly be enough.

“It was a good first shot across the bow,” said Delegate John L. Bohanan Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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