updated 7/6/2006 10:38:21 AM ET 2006-07-06T14:38:21

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer complained Wednesday about the expense of educating immigrants, the latest irreverent oration from the loose-tongued high-ranking state official and former governor.

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Schaefer, 84, made national news earlier this year for telling a 24-year-old female aide to walk past him again in a public meeting, then ogling her backside. On Wednesday, in the same regularly scheduled meeting where he ogled the staffer, Schaefer complained about illegal immigrants and the cost of educating them.

"I get so irritated that we just open the borders, let everybody in, put everybody in the schools, educate them, all that sort of stuff, and that's the way it is. And Americans (are) going to have to bear the cost," he said.

Schaefer, a Democrat, said the border with Mexico is "like a sieve" and complained that illegal immigrants are entitled to send their children to public schools.

"Just walk in, we pay for it, no questions asked," he said.

Schaefer's remarks came as the three-member state Board of Public Works, of which he is a member, was approving a contract for English language proficiency tests for the state's 30,000 students taking English language classes. The tests cost $2.4 million - covered by a federal grant - but the state will have to kick in $373,000 over five years to score the tests and train teachers how to give them.

The board eventually approved the contract without dissent from Schaefer.

For good measure, the irascible official who is seeking reelection, later added comments that some regarded as demeaning to women. Asked after the meeting if he planned to debate his opponents in the Democratic primary, Schaefer said of Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, he "wouldn't debate her on how to bake a chocolate cake."

Owens told The (Baltimore) Sun she found the comment demeaning.

Wednesday's comments weren't Schaefer's first time criticizing nonnative English speakers. In May, 2004, Schaefer used another Board of Public Works meeting to complain about a trip he made to a McDonald's where the counter worker had poor English.

"I don't want to adjust to another language. This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us," Schaefer said then.

Schaefer did not apologize for the McDonald's remark, though he did write a letter of apology to the female staffer who brought coffee to his table.

Kim Propeack, advocacy director for Hispanic rights group Casa de Maryland, said it didn't make sense why Schaefer would criticize people who aren't good English speakers and then criticize funding to help teach English.

"People are overwhelmingly supportive of immigrants who are trying to learn English," she said.

The comptroller stands for re-election this fall, with more spirited opposition from his own party than in recent elections. He must defeat a state delegate and a county executive for the Democratic nomination, then face a Republican challenger to return for his third term as comptroller.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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