QUESTION: WHEN IS A BUDGET not a budget? Answer: When it is the document President Reagan sends to Congress Jan. 5. The Gramm-Rudman resolution, imposing a new budgetary process on the president and Congress, moved up by a month the date on which the budget is expected on Capitol Hill. The administration protested that it couldn't get its work done on time, then decided to along anyway.

So what will be coming will be a sort of executive summary: a presidential statement; a deficit-reduction outline; a list of agency budget totals and selected tables. But there will not be the program-by-program spending totals and policy analyses, explaining the budget numbers, until the president makes his State of the Union address at the end of January.No line items, in other words, that the president would veto if he could.

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