As Anne Arundel's House delegation voted to support another round of proposed cuts in state aid to local governments, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell pledged the General Assembly would look elsewhere if further cuts are necessary this year -- provided this latest plan meets with legislative approval.
The speaker met with the delegation to drum up support for a plan that will save the state $147 million by shifting to the counties the responsibility for paying the Social Security taxes for teachers, community college professors and librarians. The proposed cuts would cost Anne Arundel County $14.4 million.
"If there are any other cuts coming down the line, the state will take those cuts," Mr. Mitchell said. He added, however, that he could make no promises for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
By the end of yesterday's meeting, seven of the county's 13 delegates had told county delegation president Michael Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, that they supported the plan, which was originally proposed by County Executive Robert R. Neall. The remainder of the delegation will tell Mr. Busch by tomorrow whether they support the plan.
Mr. Mitchell said the Neall proposal was clear-cut, fair and permanent. "We have to look at a permanent type of reduction," to take some pressure off of the state, he said. "This does that."
The speaker presented two other plans proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, involving cuts to local government in student bus transportation, police aid, library aid and community college fringe benefits.
If the General Assembly fails to adopt one of the three options, Governor Schaefer has said he will lay off state employees to make up for the shortfall in projected revenue.
"The governor indicated to us that he would not cut any more social programs. He would lay off employees," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore City, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He added that it would take approximately 6,000 layoffs to equal the $150 million cut the governor is seeking.
In indicating his support for the Neall plan, Del. Tyras S. Athey, D-Anne Arundel, said he wondered why it took so long for the state to transfer the responsibility of paying the Social Security taxes to the counties.
"I just think it's a chance to get this thing straightened out, to do it properly and run it more on a business-like basis," Mr. Athey said.