Gov. William Donald Schaefer, heckled today when he appeared at the fourth annual Christmas party for state employees, ignored admonishments to keep it upbeat and reminded employees that the state's economy is not his fault.
Pickets from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were outside the door of the State Office Building on Preston Street when the governor arrived. When he started to speak, a burly man screamed "No layoffs" and was escorted from the building by security guards.
Last week, Schaefer announced that the state deficit had grown to more than $400 million and that the options for dealing with it included layoffs of anywhere from 1,800 to 12,000 state employees.
"If you think there is any joy or any happiness in my heart today, you're wrong," said Schaefer, clad in a white choir robe because he and state cabinet members had joined a children's choir in singing Christmas songs before he spoke.
"So while you can boo, so while you say I could do other things -- if I could, I would. I was asked not to do this [talk frankly about the economy]. I was asked to keep it upbeat."
Schaefer had appeared downcast and unmoved while singing songs such as "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer."
The musical program ended with a re-written version of "Jingle Bells" in which the children sang to the governor:
"Maryland, Maryland, happy holidays/Oh what fun we're having in Annapolis today/Oh Governor, Willie Don, Schaefer tried and true/Counties sing in Maryland, singing just for you."