Gov. Martin O'Malley plans to outline about $300 million in budget cuts today that will mostly fall on state agencies. But future rounds of cutbacks could include furloughs of state employees, officials said.
O'Malley, a Democrat, briefed legislative leaders on his proposed budget cuts over a two-hour dinner meeting at the governor's mansion in Annapolis Monday night. The governor must pare about $700 million from the $14 billion budget for the fiscal year that began this month because the recession has caused tax receipts to slump.
The governor will submit some spending cuts for approval by the Board of Public Works Wednesday, and those will target health care and higher education programs, lawmakers said. The balance of budget cuts are expected later this year.
"We're going to look to state agencies first, and at some point in time we're going to have to go back to furloughs," said Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller after emerging from the meeting. He added that state leaders are mindful of trying to save state employee jobs.
"They're trying to keep people employed," said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who also attended the briefing. "The recession's not their fault."
O'Malley began talks with labor union officials Monday about the potential impact of budget cuts on state employees, and he plans to hold discussions with local leaders before reducing aid to local governments. State workers were required to take up to five furlough days earlier this year.