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New 'bipartisan' US budget plan

A rose is a rose is a rose, said Gertrude Stein, but is a Reagan budget the same thing under another name? Apparently so, because President Reagan now endorses an alternative budget shaped by conservative Democrats and Republicans in Congress, led by Rep. Phil Gramm (D) of Texas and Rep. Delbert L. Latta (R) of Ohio.

Because the Gramm-Latta budget hews closely to the Reagan model, White House officials say that the President's endorsement is not a compromise.

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Rather, they say, it represents an attempt to coalesce conservatives in the House around a budget proposal that would shunt aside liberal efforts to pass a budget very different from Mr. Reagan's program.

In the Senate, Republicans form the majority. But in the House, Reagan must count on "swing" Democrats --conservatives who share the President's views -- to pass budget and tax bills to his liking.

Notably, the White House opposes a $715 billion fiscal 1982 budget put together by the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. James R. Jones (D) of Oklahoma, that would restore some social spending, shave military outlays, and anticipate only a one-year tax cut.

Mr. Reagan's $695 billion budget --apart from spending priorities that differ from the Jones model -- rests on the premise of a three-year cut in income taxes.

For the economy to rouse itself to steady growth, White House officials insist, people should know well in advance what tax savings they can anticipate.

Such knowledge, in the White House view, would spur families to save and invest more boldly than currently is the case, when higher-income taxpayers often seek nonproductive tax shelters.

House members, once back from the Easter recess, will not consider Mr. Reagan's 1982 budget, but rather the Jones and Gramm-Latta alternatives.

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In this situation, the President has thrown his support behind the budget version that gives him virtually everything he wants on the spending side.

Assuming that the Gramm-Latta budget wins House approval, Mr. Reagan's problems are not over in the battle to get his controversial economic proposals passed into law.

Tax bills are the province of the House Ways and Means Committee, whose chairman -- Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D) of Illinois -- has shaped a one-year tax cut measure, tailored to favor middle- and lower-income Americans.

Mr. Reagan's three-year tax cut, by contrast, would give all taxpayers a 10 percent, across-the-board reduction each year for three years.

In dollar terms, this would give much larger savings to high-income taxpayers. This disturbs many Democrats on grounds of equity.

Reagan tax policy, based on the so-called Kemp-Roth proposal, holds that high-income people will invest more of their tax savings, and spur the economy.

Simultaneously, a similar debate on budget and taxes will proceed in the Senate, where the President -- because of the Republican majority -- is expected to have less trouble.

House and Senate versions finally will be reconciled in a joint conference. After approval by both chambers, it will be sent to the White House for Mr. Reagan's signature -- or possible veto, if the package proves unacceptable to hi m.

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