Of budgets that bloom in the spring -- one Democrat's plan
Budget alternatives sprout like spring flowers all over Capitol Hill, and not one has enough admirers.
Senators are struggling with a White House-backed plan that includes politically unsavory social security savings. House Budget Committee chairman James R. Jones (D) of Oklahoma faces doubters left and right for his version.
And groups ranging from moderates in both parties to the liberals and the Congressional Black Caucus continue devising their own federal budget plans, despite the fact that Congress has already missed the May 15 deadline for enacting the first budget resolution.
As of this writing, House Republican leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois was meeting privately with Southern conservative Democrats, the ''boll weevils,'' and moderate ''gypsy moth'' Republicans to come up with yet another alternative. It was said to be a last ditch effort to patch together the Reagan coalition from last year.
While others try to appeal to the broad center, however, one member of the House Budget Committee unveiled a budget proposal that will almost certainly never win a majority, but which will at least keep alive the dormant strain of liberalism in Congress.
Rep. David R. Obey (D) of Wisconsin told reporters at breakfast May 18 that he and about 40 other Democrats have a plan to ''deal with the pain'' of the recession, while limiting military growth, and raising taxes for the wealthy, without touching social security benefits.
While Budget chairman Jones tries to gather a majority for his more conservative proposal, Representative Obey says, ''a number of us feel we ought to stay as close as we can to first principles before we start compromising on the numbers.''
First principles for Obey include holding military growth to 7 percent, taking less money out of other federal programs, and drastically changing the tax structure by ''eliminating the warp toward high income taxpayers.''
Obey also proposes chopping the Reagan tax cuts in half. He argues that among his Wisconsin constituents there is ''overwhelming'' sentiment to give up the ' 83 tax cut.
The Obey alternative would take direct aim at the recession. It would set up 1 million public-service jobs, including 350,000 summer jobs for youth. It would extend unemployment benefits at a cost of $1 billion next year, and it would provide federally financed jobs at the minimum wage for those workers who have exhausted their jobless benefits.
The Obey plan also would target aid for graduate students in engineering, math, and science. And it would launch a nationwide, $1.5 billion campaign to improve high schools.
If that sounds directly contrary to the current mood of trimming back the federal government, it is. The Wisconsin representative has no delusions that his plan will pass, although House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D) of Massachusetts has agreed to look at it.
More to the point, says Obey, is that Democratic voters will see a clear alternative to President Reagan's approach and will be more motivated to vote next fall.
Commenting on the budget impasse that has tied up Capitol Hill most of this year, Obey calls for a new and tougher budget process. ''We are plagued by a budget process which is simply phony,'' he says. ''It gives every incentive to run away from responsibility.''
The only push on legislators now, he says, is a ''growing feeling on the House floor'' that the public would object if they failed to act.