In a twist on the popular fast food commercial, county residents areasking, "Where's the fat?"
State political leaders have slashed $446 million from Maryland's $11.5 billion budget this year. But, "They are not looking for the little bits of fat," said Brooklyn Park resident Linda Sharp.
As Gov. William Donald Schaefer grapples with another $200 million deficit this month, Sharp's concern was echoed again and again Tuesday night at a Glen Burnie forum on the budget crisis and at other recent forums in Pasadena and Arnold.
"You can raise my taxes, you can raise them reasonably, but I do not want my taxes going to pay forcar phones," said Janie Ballard of Glen Burnie. "I don't want my taxmoney to pay for vacations at these so-called meetings in Ocean City. And I don't want them to pay for another 'Lighthizer Years.' I don't ever want to see my money spent on that kind of garbage again."
Seeking marching orders to take to the General Assembly when it reconvenes in January, Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, and the delegates from District 31 invited constituents' suggestions at forums in Glen Burnie and Pasadena. House Minority Leader Ellen Sauerbray, R-Baltimore County, organized the Arnold forum.
Nearly a hundred county residents responded to the open invitations. Several said they would pay higher taxes rather than suffer deeper cuts to education, public safety and human services. But others, fearful that new taxes could push an already uncertain economy over the brink, suggested further belt-tightening.
"People aren't confident about anything except getting up in the morning and hoping they still have a job," said Jack Wisthoff of Pasadena, a math professor. "I'm only 51 so I missed the really big depression. But I think next year is going to be the worst of my lifetime."
Tom Hemmeter, a retired Bayside Beach resident, said lawmakers should increase the sales tax. "I know this will notsolve all our fiscal woes, but it will mean a quick influx of neededcash," he said.
George McCrudy of Pasadena favors revamping the state income tax, so the rich would carry more of the burden. "We should not let the poor carry this alone," he said.
Others suggested lawmakers to pare welfare programs, require state employees to pay more for their medical care and turn the operation of the Baltimore Washington International Airport over to the private sector.
They saidthe state could save by slashing the separate public relations bureaus in the governor's office and the major departments. Economic development and tourism promotions were also singled out.
Edwin E. Edel, a retired Crofton resident, said the state could save $750,000 a year by eliminating the three-person sports promotion office. "Why do we need three people to promote the Baltimore Orioles," he said.
Paul Grimm of Pasadena complained that while thousands of private industry jobs have disappeared, state and county workers -- including teachers and police -- have successfully dodged major wage concessions and layoffs.
"Government must be looked at as a business and not an employment agency for the unemployable," said Paul Grimm, an engineerand Pasadena resident.
"Major private sector employers are layingoff thousands of blue and white collar workers. Meanwhile governmenthas made trivial pay cuts and still is going to raise the tax burdenon its citizens."