Md. Board of Public Works Slashes $300 Million From State Budget

Demonstrators protest cuts

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland officials approved almost $300 million in state budget cuts.

The Board of Public Works voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the cuts, which were made to adjust for the worsening economy.

About $85 million was cut from the Health Department, which is the biggest department in state government. Education and public safety also sustained significant cuts.

More than 800 jobs will be lost because of the cuts.

Gov. Martin O'Malley called the cuts painful but necessary because of the economy, adding that President George W. Bush's administration is among the worst in the nation's history when it comes to the economy.

Demonstrators in Annapolis protested cuts to the Developmental Disabilities Administration that serves about 22,000 people by providing job training and family and residential services. Carol Fried, of Kensington, said she has a 22-year-old son with severe disabilities and the DDA services allow her to work.

The Board of Public Works also acted to handle a drop in tax revenue and to create a $152 million cushion to prepare for the next fiscal year, when estimated budget problems are expected to bring a shortfall of more than $1 billion.

State budget cuts add up to about $2.2 billion since he took office in January 2007, said O'Malley, who serves on the board with Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. The governor also said previous cuts and tax increases last year have put the state on much better financial footing than many other states.

Still, state officials are bracing for more fiscal pain, as uncertainty continues to swirl around the national economic crisis.

"No one knows for sure when we come through this cycle," O'Malley said at the board meeting. "No one knows for sure when the national economy bottoms out."
Franchot, looking ahead to more bad financial news, said the state needs "a comprehensive long-term view of Maryland's financial books."

"Let us put our state's near- and long-term spending obligations under the microscope and figure out ways that we can be more efficient," Franchot said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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