House Committee Considers Spending Cuts
The House Appropriations Committee labored through a slew of proposed spending cuts today to trim about $500 million from the state's budget for the next fiscal year.
But lawmakers appeared unwilling to eliminate a 2 percent cost-of-living wage increase for state employees, a cut that fiscal analysts said would save about $62 million. Without the raises, state employees's actual take-home pay would actually drop in the next year because of increased health-care and retirement costs, fiscal analysts said.
Several state employees and labor union representatives testified against cutting the cost-of-living increase.
Delegates from both political parties said the state government already is losing state employees to higher-paying jobs in federal and local governments, as well as the private sector.
Denying a cost-of-living raise "really further exacerbates a downward spiral that we've seen over the last few years and that is to recruit and retain state employees," said Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. (D-St. Mary's).
Del. Susan L.M. Aumann (R-Baltimore County) said it is "not fair" to state employees. "It seems like we're robbing Peter to pay Paul," Aumann said. "I can't swallow that."
Delegates broke into subcommittees yesterday afternoon to consider 49 proposed cuts in proposed spending for fiscal year 2009. On the table are reductions to education, health care and open space funding.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Norman H. Conway (D-Wicomico) said he hopes to identify $500 million in decreases to proposed spending during the special session in an effort to close a structural deficit projected to be at least $1.5 billion.
"It's easy when you just say it fast to take reductions," Conway said. "When you start looking at what the impacts are, there are other items that come to fore."
-- Philip Rucker
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