- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

The budget deficit inherited by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is threatening some state-sponsored child care programs, including one that helps parents find safe day care facilities.
Mr. Ehrlich's advisers have said cuts were necessary because the governor had to present a balanced budget after the outgoing Democratic administration created the deficit.
"He inherited a $1.8 billion budget deficit that he had to reconcile in 10 short weeks," said Henry Fawell, the governor's spokesman. "And he still managed to put out a balanced and sustained budget that includes funding for education."
In Mr. Ehrlich's proposed 2004 budget, the Maryland Child Care Resource Network would be among the programs cut most significantly. The network, which served 45,00 children last year, would have its state funding reduced from $5.8 million to $1.8 million.
Network organizers say they would have to close the 13 resource centers as a result.
"It would devastate us," said Marti Worshtil, executive director of the Prince George's County center, which served 16,000 families last year. "Though we have some grants to work on special projects, we wouldn't be able to operate without state funds."
The centers provide such services as referring parents to child care, training child care providers, helping teen parents and working with families coming off welfare.
Other projects slated for cuts with the Maryland child care system are an after-school program and one that helps middle- and low-income parents pay for child care.
The child care program would be scaled back from $134 million to $109 million. The after-school program would lose about $5 million.
A large portion of the blame is being assigned to former Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration.
"The Glendening administration did an elaborate show of moving money from one pot to another, creating the shortfall," one child care source said.
Though the centers raise some money on their own, officials say it is not enough to keep them open.
"In Anne Arundel, we are still in the baby stages of raising resources, and 77 percent of our funding comes from the state budget," said Carolyn Carter, executive director of the county's resource center, which served 3,601 families last year.
Kristiana Walker, who needed a baby sitter after moving from Florida to Severna Park, Md., was relieved to find services that guided her to reliable, trusted child care.
"They have a very good reputation, and they do a background check of all providers, which is so important in these times we live in," she said.

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