Sweeping Cuts Expected In Md.’s New Budget

BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Local governments may find themselves up against a wall when Maryland’s new budget is released. That’s because it’s expected to contain sweeping cuts.

Political reporter Pat Warren explains government isn’t alone in that concern.

It was October 2009 on the city’s first furlough day when Shelly Baker got word that the city is imposing furlough days on the government workers who drop by her downtown flower shop on Friday’s.

“We have a lot of regular customers that come in every week, and they’re not here today,” Baker said.

They’re not here on this Friday either, and it’s not a furlough day. It’s 15 months later and Shelley’s Blossoms walk-in business is dying on the vine. She’s a small business owner in the grip of the effect of government deficits, pay cuts and tax hikes.

“Most people, you know, they’re packing lunches. It used to be that people would walk to the Inner Harbor and then they would come in on their way back or their way to get flowers to take to their desks. And now people are just doing whatever it takes to save money,” Baker said.

Now with a new round of state budget cuts, local governments can expect to see their already limited funding decrease.

“We’re all collectively holding our breath until we see what the numbers are,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Governor Martin O’Malley’s cuts — his way of handling the state’s deficit this year– has some asking if the effect will be to force local governments to ask the state to raise taxes.

“I think it’s really hard for any business to stay in business with the constant raise of taxes,” Baker said.

Everybody’s feeling the pinch.

“I don’t think the taxpayer cares if they pay at the state level or the county level. A tax is still a tax,” said Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz.

Whatever happens in Annapolis is sure to influence Baker’s future.

“I love the city and I want to continue to stay here, but it’s kinda tough,” Baker said.

No one disputes that.

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. And regardless of who takes the heat, it’s the citizens who will pay.

The governor’s budget is due next week, two days after his inauguration.

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