Regents set to quit if their budget is cut


The vice chairman of the University of Maryland Board of Regents told a Senate committee yesterday that all the members will resign if a proposed $2 million cut in their budget takes effect.

That big a cut in the regents' $8.4 million budget request "would be tantamount to destroying our ability to govern the system," Roger R. Blunt, the vice chairman, told the Budget and Taxation Committee yesterday. "If action is taken to cut $2 million, then the regents would take action to resign," he said.

Mr. Blunt said the decision to resign was made Thursday in a meeting of the 16-member board during which it wrestled with budget cuts proposed by the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee.

The proposed $2 million cut approved by an Appropriations subcommittee was reduced to $400,000 by the full panel, which withheld another $1 million until the regents produce a report on the proposed merger of University College, the adult education program, into the University of Maryland College Park.

While describing the proposed $400,000 cut as "a big hit," Mr.

Blunt indicated that the regents could live with it, but not with the $2 million reduction that a Budget and Taxation subcommittee has recommended.

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, said she is sure that the full committee will go along with the proposed cut.

If the Senate approves, as it usually does, differences between the House and Senate appropriations for the regents would be resolved by a conference committee.

"We did it out of frustration," Mrs. Hoffman said in explaining the proposed cut to Mr. Blunt. She added later that the committee feels the regents have not dealt with a number of issues involved in governing the state's universities since most of them were merged into a single system in 1988.

Several key legislators say, for example, that they have become dTC frustrated waiting for a systemwide policy on tuitions and enrollments.

"I don't like ultimatums and I don't like confrontation," Sen. John A. Cade, a committee member, said of the resignation threat.

"We made those cuts to light a fire under them and I guess they don't like the heat," said the Anne Arundel County Republican. "When I hear someone threatening to quit, I tend to want to get forms pre-printed to make it easier for them."

Mr. Blunt told the committee that the regents' budget -- which pays for running the Adelphi headquarters of the state university system -- has been decreased from $16 million when the system was consolidated in 1988 to $9.3 million after the final round of last year's budget cuts. The request this year called for a further reduction to $8.4 million.

Nevertheless, other senators on the committee complained of salaries for administrators that are too high and continual turmoil in the system, particularly at the University of Maryland at Baltimore where President Erroll L. Reese just resigned.

Mr. Blunt said that there has been too much emphasis on the troubles. He told the committee that since the regents would not be able to govern properly with a reduced budget, the way to cut funding would be through legislation to change the regents' duties.

"Hold us accountable," he said, "but only to the extent that you allow us to govern."

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