ONE OF THE MAINSTAYS of the Fiscal 1988 Reagan budget, we're told, will be more sales of government assets. In all, we understand, the Reagan administration hopes to sell off $13 billion of government properties to help narrow the gap between what the Congressional Budget Office estimates will be a $160 billion to $170 billion deficit next year and the mandated Gramm-Rudman limit of $108 billion.
The administration hasn't made much progress in getting rid of properties already targeted for disposal. The biggest, the public sale of Conrail, remains in congressional limbo. Which leaves little immediate likelihood that Washington quickly will get rid of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, an unprofitable and hence less desirable rail property reportedly on the block.Realizing cash to cut the deficit isn't the only reason, of course, for selling assets. Philosophically, it wants also to get the government out of businesses the administration believes can be run better by the private sector or local governments.
In one respect at least it has made some progress in this direction. Shortly before Congress adjourned in October, it cleared administration-backed legislation to lease government-owned National and Dulles airports in Washington to a regional authority. The measure, however, gave a nine-member congressional review panel the right to veto decisions of the regional authority.
That provision is being challenged as a legislative veto, something the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1983. And the attack is being led by the same man who led the fight then, Alan B. Morrison, director of the Public Citizen Litigation Group.
The irony, he said, is that Congress had no interest in the power of the regional authority to issue bonds or appoint a chief executive. "The only thing they cared about was (free) parking."