- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will make cuts to social-services programs such as welfare or public safety to help reduce Maryland’s budget shortfall next year, the governor’s top financial adviser said yesterday.

“We have looked at every program throughout the state government to find efficiencies and cost savings,” Budget Secretary James C. “Chip” DiPaula told The Washington Times.

He said cuts in the Human Resources and Health and Mental Hygiene departments are likely because they receive so much state money.

The current budget includes $519.7 million for Human Resources and $2.8 billion for Health and Mental Hygiene.

Mr. DiPaula did not say how much money would be cut from either department.

The administration had said little until this week about what it would trim to reduce the projected $1 billion shortfall for the next budget cycle. Mr. Ehrlich said Tuesday there would be no single announcement on cuts.

He has already made significant cuts to the Education Department, which also receives a large amount of state money.

In June, he announced $40 million in cuts to the University System of Maryland, which could increase tuition by as much as 21 percent at the University of Maryland College Park and the other 12 schools.

Mr. Ehrlich has vowed to fund improvements to public education for the next two years through an initiative known as the Thornton Commission, Mr. DiPaula said.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene oversees consumer protection, environmental health, immunizations and substance-abuse programs. The department also administers death certificates and professional licenses, and handles divorces and vital statistics.

The Department of Human Resources also regulates adoptions and foster care.

Secretary of Human Resources Christopher J. McCabe could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his spokesman, Norris West, said the department will continue to serve residents as best as possible.

“We are going to focus on our core mission,” Mr. West said. “We realize that these budget conditions are a challenge for us, but we are still going to serve our customers.”

Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Nelson J. Sabatini also was not available for comment, said department spokesman J.B. Hanson.

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