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Reagan Calls for Reform in Budget Process

March 22, 1987|ROBERT L. JACKSON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan rebuked Congress on Saturday for failing to enact appropriations bills in a timely fashion and called for the introduction of "some badly needed order into the budget process."

In his weekly radio address to the nation, delivered from his weekend retreat at Camp David, Md., Reagan said he intends to "propose a comprehensive budget process reform" to the Democratic-controlled 100th Congress.

Meanwhile, in the Democratic response to Reagan's address, Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Sacramento) said the federal deficit is the nation's top budgetary challenge and that the President must abandon his opposition to an across-the-board tax increase.

Commends Domenici Move

Sketching some of the elements in the upcoming Administration program, Reagan commended a move in Congress, spearheaded by Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), which would institute such reforms as a two-year budget cycle, firm deadlines for passing individual spending bills and so-called "enhanced recision authority" for the President.

Reagan renewed his call for Congress to give him "individual appropriations bills . . . on time" rather than a year-end measure incorporating all government spending that he must sign or veto in its entirety.

With congressional Democrats threatening to sidetrack the Administration's $1.02-trillion proposed budget with their own spending priorities, the President charged that catchall "continuing resolutions" like the one now in force, which continues funding for most programs at existing levels, "camouflage the worst kind of special-interest spending."

"The budget process is indeed a sorry spectacle," Reagan said, "more like a magic show--it's wink and blink and smoke and mirrors and pulling rabbits out of hats."

The proposed enhanced recision authority would be "much like the line-item veto except that my recommendations for spending cuts could be overturned by a simple majority vote in either house of Congress," Reagan said.

Reagan's proposal appeared to mark a retreat from his previous requests for the line-item veto. In that procedure, which he has long sought, the President would have the power to delete individual items in a money bill, subject only to reversal by two-thirds votes of both houses. The line-item veto would make it harder to add special projects to large appropriation bills, and Congress has resisted it.

Approval of the recision proposal would mean, Reagan said, that "if Congress wants certain spending, they can have it. But they have to stand up, be counted and vote for it."

Balancing the Budget

Reagan has proposed a constitutional amendment making a balanced federal budget mandatory as defense against overspending, but there was no reference to it in Saturday's broadcast.

The President accused congressional Democrats of wrongly suggesting that he was trying to cut drug enforcement by $900 million. He said that while anti-drug abuse efforts are "a priority item" in his budget, an expenditure of $900 million last year for airplanes, helicopters and other facilities to combat drug smuggling need not be repeated this year because that item was "a one-time expenditure."

"The fact that the drug issue has been so misrepresented demonstrates how politically charged the whole budget issue is," Reagan said. He added that it is "time to put politics aside and do what Congress knows has to be done--give the American people a budget process that controls spending."

But Fazio said in the Democratic response that his fellow partisans in the House also believe in fiscal restraint.

"It's time to talk sense to the American people--to offer the plain facts and the simple truth, even if it doesn't make us feel good," Fazio said.

'We Need to Raise Taxes'

"The honest fact is we need to continue spending restraint and we need to raise taxes if we want to cut the deficit over time and re-establish a firm economic foundation."

Fazio, a member of the Appropriations and Budget committees of the House, said Democrats are willing to cooperate on bipartisan spending goals.

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