The Maryland Board of Public Works approved an $84 million plan on the second day of the fiscal year Wednesday to address state revenues that are underperforming.
The board includes Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp. It voted 3-0 for about $77 million in spending reductions and $7 million in fund transfers to get an early start on making up for the shortfall.
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"Taking action this early in the fiscal year, it is especially prudent since agencies will be in a better position to adjust their standing and to live within their means," said T. Eloise Foster, O'Malley's budget secretary.
About $56 million of the cuts are reductions in state agency budgets, Foster said, and 61 vacant state government jobs will be eliminated. The plan did not include layoffs. About $3 million were cut from the state's Sellinger Program, which provides state aid to independent colleges.
The cuts were approved just over a week before the state's primary races for statewide offices such as governor and attorney general and seats in the Maryland General Assembly. Now that the primaries are over, Franchot said it's time for candidates from both parties to stop spouting political rhetoric about the economy and recognize that Maryland still faces economic problems in the aftermath of the recession.
"To those who would benefit from a rosier outlook on a national-state economy, stop pretending that we've made it through the thick of it, because we just haven't," Franchot, a Democrat, said. "And to those who would benefit from saying that the sky is falling in Maryland, blame it all on the other political party, cut it out — because what we are dealing with is a statewide reflection of a national problem."
O'Malley, a Democrat who is term-limited and in his final year as governor, outlined a series of initiatives he has supported to help strengthen the state's economy, such making college education more affordable. The governor, who is considering running for president in 2016, also noted his support for raising the minimum wage and investing in infrastructure like schools. He then blamed Republicans in Congress for shutting down the government last year and hurting consumer confidence.
"It sent a ripple effect, not only through our region, it really sent it through the whole country," O'Malley said.