It was a surprise to hear a proposal to cut the Maryland State Police’s aviation service on the shore is seriously being considered by the Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW).
In these times of severely declining revenues amid mostly stable expenses, there will be major cuts made by governments across the country. In the case of Maryland, a deficit of at least $1.5 billion has been forecast for the next fiscal year.
It has been known all through the health pandemic the consequences to the economy would be massive and likely require reserve fund allocations. With the health crisis taking center attention this spring, the fiscal realities were put on the back burner. The gravity of the financial disaster caused by the pandemic is now beginning to be weighed and calculated, including at last month’s BPW meeting.
Major cuts were authorized from the budget including $131 million in college aid, $2.5 million from the Attorney General’s Office and $1.6 million in funding for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Among many other reductions considered but not decided is about $1.3 million in funding for the Maryland State Police through a closure of an aviation base and the grounding and selling of one of the agency’s helicopters. Trooper 4 services the lower shore, including Ocean City, and Trooper 6 is based out of Easton and covers the central shore. They are both under consideration.
Eliminating either of these emergency air services would be devastating to the shore. In years past, we have covered several instances when families have been bilked out of thousands of dollars by private air transport operations to Shock Trauma or Johns Hopkins when the MSP service is on another call. Families have faced the immediate decision of saving their loved one’s life while utilizing a service that cost them as much as $50,000, which has been the case in several examples in recent years.
Along with the harshness of those personal situations, there is a major public safety component to this decision. The aviation operation has saved countless lives over the years. One life spared in a year is enough to justify its safety from budget cuts, but the fact is this valuable emergency service saves many lives each year.
State Senator Mary Beth Carozza is right when she said, “The possible budget cuts to the Eastern Shore’s MSP medevac services truly would have a life-threatening impact to my constituents and other shore residents, including those living in remote, rural areas of the shore. I understand in the current fiscal COVID-19 environment that cuts to Maryland’s budget are inevitable. However, I understand there are other professional analyses that have identified alternative savings rather than making detrimental, life-threatening cuts to the critical services provided by Trooper 4 and Trooper 6 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. … I urge you to reject any budget cuts or proposals that would threaten the life-saving services of MSP Aviation on the shore.”
All budget cuts are deemed difficult by officials, but those involving lives and public safety should be spared even in the most desperate and unprecedented times.