The Maryland Board of Public Works unanimously voted Wednesday morning to approve $82 million in state budget cuts, including more than $18.2 million in reductions to the University System of Maryland.
Gov. Larry Hogan, one of the board’s three members, proposed job cuts requiring the system to eliminate 41 currently filled positions and 60 vacant ones.
But USM Chancellor Robert Caret said at Wednesday’s meeting that the system will be able to eliminate the necessary positions though attrition and a hiring freeze without laying any employees off.
“At the level of this cut, we immediately took the stance that a tuition increase is not appropriate, it’s not a cut that would warrant such a move, and that people should not be eliminated at a cut of this level,” Caret said. “There will be no one eliminated from their positions.”
USM spokesman Mike Lurie said the system experiences “fairly routine vacancies” and could choose to eliminate newly vacated jobs rather than fill them. Lurie did not know whether a deadline to eliminate the positions had been set.
Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp voted 3-0 in favor of the cuts at the board’s meeting Wednesday at the State House in Annapolis.
Hogan’s proposed job cuts will save $11.5 million, and the system will also cut “various operating expenditures” by $2.7 million, according to the meeting’s agenda.
The state will also allocate more than $4 million to the system from the Higher Education Investment Fund, leaving the system with net cuts of $14.2 million, according to the agenda and a Baltimore Sun report.
The decision for budget cuts comes after a state revenue shortfall and not an irresponsible budget, Kopp said at the meeting.
“I wouldn’t want folks to think that the budget was passed in deficit or that the problem we face today, at the moment, is due to excess spending,” Kopp said.
Hogan referred to the legislative analyst, Warren Deschenaux, who told lawmakers on Oct. 25 they needed to “get real” in addressing their budget gaps.
“The legislature’s budget team used the ‘Groundhog Day’ analogy that we keep reliving the same day over and over again every year,” Hogan said. “In order to get out of our fiscal predicament, we need to change our ways.”
Franchot said things could be worse by comparing Maryland to Virginia, which has a $1.5 billion budget deficit. He also referred to larger budget gaps the state has previously faced.
“Today’s actions really pale in comparison to the magnitude of the cuts, slightly over $2 billion — that’s ‘b’ as in boy — $2 billion that this unique Board of Public Works made in the deficit of the great recession,” Franchot said. “What we need to focus on is how we do better with less, more with less.”
The state will also reduce $20 million of general funding for Medicaid but compensate for that cut with resources from the cigarette restitution fund.