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Residents offer ideas on balancing Md. budget

December 12, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

Correction



The following story, published online at www.herald-mail.com on Dec. 12, 2009 and in the Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009, edition of The Herald-Mail newspaper, contained incorrect information about the state of Maryland's corrections system.

Inmates in state prisons do not receive daily allowances and there are six assistant commissioners, according to a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The Herald-Mail apologizes for the mistake.




HAGERSTOWN -- Washington County residents spent several hours Saturday morning laying their concerns before Maryland lawmakers who are preparing for the 2010 General Assembly session.

As the state stares down an estimated $1.5 billion budget shortfall, members of the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly turned to their constituents for ideas to balance the budget.

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The people on the front lines know where to find the greatest savings, said Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington.

Nearly 100 people attended the forum Saturday, but only 20 came forward to speak.

"The image of a dog chasing its tail comes to mind," Diane Eves said. "You know the budget problem is huge, but you don't know how to fix it."

Many who spoke were former or current employees of the State of Maryland. "Our state is top-heavy," said Richard Drewry, a retired state employee. "Why not make cuts at the top?"

"It looks like the state is spending hand over fist," said Kermit Hoffman, a state correctional employee. "I can go on and on about the hardships of state employees."

Those who spoke said the trickledown from state spending touches more than state employees. How Washington County taxes cycle back to its residents also was a concern.

Claiming to be but a dribble in the Chesapeake Bay, Oscar Evans suggested the delegation wiggle its way out of paying taxes to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The price of Maryland's correctional system also pushed buttons Saturday.

"I could be wrong on this, but I was told we pay for brand-name drugs for these inmates, not generic drugs," Brent Ridenour said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we are flushing down the toilet."

From inadequate staffing to the $1 to $2 daily allowance for each inmate, those who spoke Saturday criticized the state correctional system, including the necessity of employing 12 assistant commissioners.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, kept mostly quiet during the event.

Owner of a construction firm, Myers said he agreed with residents that the budget should be trimmed from the top.

"If I have to be more efficient in my company, why are we not more efficient at the state?" he asked.

All of the recommended cuts to the pending 2010 state budget paled in comparison to Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr.'s suggestion that the state halt the Thornton funding plan for public schools in Maryland for a year.

Weldon, unaffiliated-Frederick/Washington, said it would be the single most effective cut to spending, saving the state more than a billion dollars.

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