NO ONE LIKES TO TALK about the 'T' word, so we talk about revenues, said House Budget Committee Chairman William Gray, D-Pa., who was reviewing the fiscal 1988 budget fight.
That T word, of course, is taxes, and Rep. Gray says that whether you call them revenue enhancements or user fees, as the Reagan administration tries to do, or you label them taxes, everyone knows government receipts must rise.He emphasizes the president's budget sent up a large package of revenue hikes, much of it one-shot asset sales that don't bring down the budget deficit for long, and in user fee proposals that Congress believed were unfair.
You can call it 'user fees,' but a duck is a duck and a horse is a horse, Rep. Gray told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce group here.
So, in his view, the fight with the White House is not over whether you boost revenues to help cut the budget deficit by the $23 billion now required. Instead, the fight is about how you raise them.
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SPENDING CUTS WILL COME half from domestic programs and half from defense, Rep. Gray predicted.
He thinks domestic programs like transportation are candidates for the budget knife, but he has not specified which transportation programs might be sliced or by how much.
The House budget chief complained about House actions to take the aviation trust fund off the unified budget, a move that doesn't change the total deficit calculations but would protect that account from deficit reduction efforts. He said the move would force budget cutters to look elsewhere for an estimated $1.5 billion in savings.
In fact, he said, I am sure you are going to see a movement now to remove all the trust funds from the unified budget, and thereby requiring sharper spending cuts in other accounts.
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THE PRESIDENT'S "NUTS speech, upon signing the bill that restored the budget law's power to force automatic spending cuts, was pretty strong stuff and made the mostly Republican group of lawmakers with him look quite uncomfortable.
The president showed plenty of fight, even though the bill means the White House has to deal with Congress now or take forced spending cuts it hopes to avoid.
But earlier that day his own budget director, James C. Miller III, signaled a willingness to deal with Congress to develop a package of spending cuts and, yes, revenues. That income cannot be a tax hike, he insisted, but he was hopeful a deal would emerge.
After the bill-signing and tough talk from Mr. Reagan, Sen. Phil Gramm, R- Texas, said his budget law was working.
The senator noted both the president and Congress have talked for years about ensuring a steady drop in the deficit, but there was always an excuse. Now, the excuses won't work.
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THE NEXT STOP is the tax-writing committees of Congress.
The House Ways and Means Committee already has begun crafting some new
revenues, and the Senate Finance Committee will begin next week.
Complicating their job a bit, and underscoring the whole budget mess, is the fact that revenue hikes cannot take effect with the start of the new budget year.
Fiscal 1988 began Thursday.