ANNAPOLIS – The morning after reports surfaced that state employee layoffs will be in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed budget next week, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. told the governor he opposes the idea.
Speaking to the Maryland Economic Development Association Wednesday, Miller, D-Calvert, said that he “took the governor to task” about the possibility of layoffs at a breakfast meeting earlier in the day.
“I just felt that our state employees had suffered enough,” Miller said later, citing a furlough plan and a lack of pay increases. “When you come to state employment, you hope for job security.”
O’Malley Spokeswoman Christine Hansen declined to discuss the specifics of the breakfast.
“The governor is working to solve the fiscal year 2009 budget and is working to propose his fiscal year 2010 budget,” she said. “He’s going to be working together with Senate President Miller, [House] Speaker [Michael E.] Busch and Republicans and Democrats alike to help Maryland’s middle class get through these tough economic times.”
Busch Spokeswoman Alexandra Hughes said the Speaker will evaluate O’Malley’s budget when it is delivered to the House next week.
“The Speaker is interested in keeping as many people in the workplace as possible,” she said.
Busch, D-Anne Arundel, was not at the breakfast.
Miller also said Wednesday that O’Malley will make budget cuts that affect the current year’s deficit, as well as the projected $1.9 billion shortfall in the coming fiscal year.
“Instead of coming up with $500 million in cuts right now, what he’s going to do is present cuts in programs that will deal with the 2009 budget” and also affect the 2010 budget, Miller said.
There are alternatives to layoffs, Miller said, including shifting some of the financial burden to the county level. Approximately 40 percent of the state’s budget supports local governments.
“The counties, for the most part, haven’t had layoffs, they haven’t had furloughs,” Miller said. “Forty percent of our budget. It’s got to be a little (more) equally shared.”
Miller said the counties should be responsible for paying at least some of the teachers’ pensions, a responsibility the state currently holds.
Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, a Republican, said such a shift would severely hinder his administration’s ability to provide essential services.
“I realize the county governments are not immune from the budget cuts,” Leopold said. “This would be a particularly pernicious additional cost to the county. I strongly oppose the idea.”
More debate on the topic is expected as legislators await next week’s budget.
“There has to be more equitable division of sharing that cost with the jurisdictions of the state,” Miller said.