WASHINGTON — The nation's governors, after heated debate, today urged Congress and the White House to impose a one-year freeze on federal spending, including cost-of-living increases for Social Security, and to make cuts in defense spending.
The National Governors' Assn. also turned back a policy resolution calling for an immediate balanced federal budget but endorsed the general concept.
The call for an immediate balanced federal spending plan lost on a 26-14 vote, while the association's overall budget policy resolution was approved 27 to 9.
The group called for the general freeze as the fairest approach to closing the massive federal deficit, now running at more than $200 billion.
Florida Gov. Robert Graham, a Democrat, attempted to exempt Social Security, but his amendment failed because it did not receive the necessary support from two-thirds of those present.
Graham appealed to his colleagues to back the exemption for Social Security, saying "the consequences would be to put 500,000 older Americans below the poverty level."
However, Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, another Democrat, argued that "all programs must be placed on the table. . . . We cannot retreat."
The governors' resolution also says new taxes may be necessary to bring down the deficit.
Modified Flat Tax
The resolution endorses a modified flat tax that would simplify the nation's tax structure but stops short of endorsing a particular Democratic or Republican proposal.
In a discussion of tax reform, New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, a Democrat, objected to ending the deduction on state taxes. "The states are not special interests," he said, contending "this has been a fundamental matter of states rights."
Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican, countered that the deduction "turns out to be a subsidy" by states with low taxes for those with high rates.
The final resolution taken up by the governors made no specific mention of the deduction.
Want Say in Tuning
"We accept the fact that we're going to get additional cuts" in federal programs run by the states, said Kansas Gov. John Carlin, a Democrat and the association president. "We'd like to have some input in fine-tuning it so it does the least harm."
Republican Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey said of today's resolution, "One of the things that we can do as governors is to insist that everything is on the table before the major decisions are made."
Alexander, the group's vice chairman, said, "War, welfare and debt is 84% of the budget and none of that has anything to do with us.
"We'll take our cuts but our point is that we want to encourage the Congress and even take the political heat" on the budget, he said.
Most of President Reagan's proposed spending plan goes to the military, Social Security and Medicare and interest payments on the federal debt.