AFSCME Opposes O'Malley Budget Cuts
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed $153 million in budget reductions received a hostile greeting this morning from Maryland's largest state employees union, which strongly backed the Democrat in last year's election.
"Many of them are very bad, and this is only the tip of the iceberg," Sue Esty, assistant director of the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told reporters less than half an hour after O'Malley (D) wrapped up a press conference detailing the cuts.
Esty urged the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel, to reject the cuts tomorrow.
The cuts, which affect about 40 state agencies, are an early attempt to confront a deficit of nearly $1.5 billion next year. The $153 million in cuts proposed by O'Malley represent about 1 percent of the general fund budget for the state fiscal year that started July 1. In addition, O'Malley formally announced savings of $60 million from the previous year's budget that can be used to address the looming deficit.
As a result of the cuts, 147 state government positions will be eliminated, only 17 of which are currently filled, O'Malley said.
"We believe we have come up with responsible cuts," O'Malley said during a news conference in the State House at which he acknowledged state leaders have a long way to go to solve the budget shortfall.
AFSCME leaders suggested that the impact of the cuts could be felt well beyond the small number of employees who could lose their jobs, however.
The cuts, for example, include a $1.5 million reduction in the budget of the Maryland State Police, which administration officials said would be achieved by holding positions vacant longer and reducing spending on travel, equipment and gasoline. The cut represents less than 1 percent of the agency budget.
But Pete Peterson, a pilot with the State Police, suggested the cut could affect emergency transport services.
"This small but highly skilled force is dwindling through attrition to the point where the state's Medevac function is stretched to the limit," Peterson said at the AFSCME event, where more than two dozen union members sat behind him in green T-shirts.
Flo Jones, a foster care worker in Baltimore, also questioned a $2 million cut to that program. Administration officials said the cut is possible because of a decline in the program's caseload.
But Jones said caseworkers are already stretched thin. "These are lives, hanging in the balance, and we definitely need more staff and resources, not less," she said.
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