Aid cutoff worries state lawmakers
President Carter's proposed cutoff of revenue-sharing funds to states is troubling state lawmakers attending the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual meeting here this week.
Fred Norton, speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and a Democrat, is unhappy that President Carter has proposed cutting $2.3 billion in general revenue sharing money earmarked for the states from his fiscal 1981 budget. "Because it is an election year," Mr. Norton hopes the President may do an about-face on the issue. But few of the more than 2,000 state lawmakers here join in this optimism; and most see revenue sharing as one of the hot issues that may influence the presidential election campaign.
Joseph Accardo, who represents the New Orleans suburb of LaPlace in the Louisiana Legislature, and George B. Roberts Jr., speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, come from vastly different parts of the country and sit on different sides of the two-party political fence. But revenue sharing is dear to them both.
Mr. Accardo, a Democrat, says the "President is using the states as a whipping boy" in his effort the balance the budget. Mr. Roberts, a Republican and outgoing president of the NCSL, says NCSL will fight Mr. Carter's proposal to eliminate the states' share ($2.3 billion in 1980) in fiscal 1981, although he was gloomy about the prospects of succeeding. Meanwhile, state lawmakers will try to win over expected Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, who so far has taken no position on revenue sharing.
In addition to that endangered program, there is deep concern here that the layoffs in the auto and steel industries, largely confined to the nation's Northeast, will spread to industries in all the states before too long. Wendall Lady, a Republican and speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, says the ripple effect from the economic downturn in Detroit cannot help but effect the Kansas economy shortly.
Minnesota's Mr. Norton complained that the price of energy was hurting both business people and homeowners in Minnesota. But Mr. Accardo of Louisiana, a major oil and gas producing state, felt President Carter has not moved fast enough to deregulate -- and raise the price of -- oil and gas.
Most lawmakers attending the conference praised Mr. Carter's efforts to balance the federal budget. Mr. Lady of Kansas said he had seen remarkable progress over the last year in his states' efforts hold the line on costs, but he added that in Kansas "there's not much we can do about cutting back on government because when you start to cut back, you're taking about jobs. . . . Our major thrust in Kansas is to prevent the growth of government."
President Carter declined an invitation to speak to the lawmakers. Instead, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy will be the featured speaker.