House Speaker Michael E. Busch joined leaders and members of Maryland's largest state employee's union Tuesday in opposing Gov. Larry Hogan's proposed 2 percent across-the-board spending cuts at agencies and the rollback of a pay raise the workers received Jan. 1.

Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said Hogan was trying to balance his budget "on the backs of state employees."


"I don't believe ever in the history of this state that someone has seen an increase in their salary and then someone comes on and takes it back," he said. The speaker pointed out that the pay cut, which would take effect July 1, would also affect the workers' benefits and retirement pay.

AFSCME Council 3 President Patrick Moran criticized the Republican governor's approach to budgeting, saying he has failed to distinguish between programs that can absorb the cuts and those that can't.

"Across-the-board cuts are like trimming your finger nails with an ax," he said.

Moran was surrounded with members holding green-and-white signs saying "I Am NOT Waste, Fraud & Abuse."

The signs were a reference to Hogan's statements during last year's campaign that he would rein in state spending with cutting deeply into programs by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse found in state audits.

Among those speaking was Officer Royce O'Baker, a correctional officer at the North Branch prison near Cumberland.

O'Baker, who said he is a Republican. said cuts of the type Hogan has proposed are not what he voted for.

"A 2 percent across-the-board cut means 2 percent less safety," he said.

Busch, who has led the Democratic charge against the Hogan budget's cuts to education and other programs, was joined by House Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones of Baltimore County and Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. of Montgomery County, both Democrats.

Madaleno, vice chairman of the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee, said that over the last 10 years, state workers have absorbed more than $1 billion in sacrifices to help balance the budget.

"At some point it just has to stop," he said.

In a news conference later Tuesday, Hogan called the move to roll back the cost-of-living adjustment as "the most difficult decisiion we had in the entire budget process." He noted that he was facing a $700 million shortfall in next year's budget and was not prepared to raise taxes.

Hogan said the alternative would have been  6,000-10,000 layoffs or 10-12 furlough days. "The choices were not great," he said.

The governor expressed support for what he called hard-working and dedicated state employees.


"I think they deserve a pay raise. I think they've gone too long without a pay raise," he said.

Hogan's proposed across-the-board cut is a continuation of a decrease initiated by former Gov. Martin O'Malley and approved by the Board of Public Works last month to help close a revenue shortfall in the budget.