Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms says his office will have to stop prosecuting many non-violent crimes if Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke moves ahead with plans to cut $500,000 from his budget.
"We are in serious danger of having to make unthinkable choices," Mr. Simms declared at a news conference yesterday.
State cuts in aid to Baltimore have prompted city finance officials to tentatively propose cutting about 4.5 percent of the $11.7 million state's attorney's budget, Mr. Simms said.
"Such a suggestion is ludicrous. If that happened, we would have no option but to decline to prosecute burglaries and juvenile crimes other than violent crime," Mr. Simms said.
Mr. Simms said that the budget reduction would force him to lay off about a dozen employees, including five of his 140 prosecutors. He added that his office probably could survive with a cut of $100,000 to $150,000.
Mr. Schmoke, who ultimately has control over reductions in the state's attorney's budget, said he understands the prosecutor's position.
"The state's attorney is justifiably concerned about the impact of budget cuts on the criminal justice system," said Clinton R. Coleman, Mr. Schmoke's press secretary. "The mayor shares his concern, but he must respond to state budget cuts."
During his news conference, Mr. Simms emphasized that the issue of funding his office "goes far beyond the mayor making a decision."
Mr. Simms also voiced support for Mr. Schmoke's proposal to increase the city's piggyback income tax to help pay for more police officers and prosecutors. He said the tax increase -- which would peg city income taxes at 55 percent of the state rate, rather than the current 50 percent -- would be consistent with demands for better public safety.
That proposal, which has yet to be turned into legislation, has drawn opposition from several City Council members.
"If political leaders are going to speak to public safety as an issue, then they are going to have to pay for it," Mr. Simms said.
Mr. Simms also said that the state should stiffen the reckless-endangerment statute to make the use of a firearm a felony punishable by a 10-year prison term.