Democrats' goal: slow Reagan a bit

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Despite some talk to the contrary, there are no indications that the congressional Democrats will try to throw a roadblock in front of President Reagan in his effort to deliver a 1983 budget. Their goal now is simply to slow him down a little.

The dominant attitude among Democrats here includes these points:

* There should be strong resistance to specific efforts on the part of the President to cut further into social programs.

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* There should be some effort to cut back on the amount Mr. Reagan wants to spend for defense.

* But there should be nothing more than talk about a cohesive alternative program. By and large, the President should have his way so that it will be abundantly clear to voters when Reagan's program for the economy fails that the Democrats will not be politically tainted by accusations of subverting it.

Meanwhile, there also is growing resistance among governors and state legislatures to further Reagan cuts in social programs that would impose a heavier burden at state and local levels.

Reflecting this position was the Republican chairman of the National Governors' Association, Richard A. Snelling of Vermont, who said: ''It would be unrealistic to expect the states to support another round of deep budget cuts in 1983 with still greater responsibilities looming in fiscal 1984 and beyond.''

And from the National Conference of State Legislators came this statement: ''We cannot accept a plan which jeopardizes the fiscal soundness of the states in order to decrease the federal budget.''

These expressions of dissent indicate the growing opposition to what is known as the Reagan counterrevolution to President Roosevelt's New Deal. Last year, most governors and state legislators were expressing at least some support for Reagan's first round of spending cuts.

The President is out on the hustings, talking to many of these same public officials in an effort to soften opposition. But, at the same time, he is aiming his sales pitch at the general public, asking for their support, and patience, during his effort to turn the economy around.

Over breakfast with reporters Tuesday, Feb. 9, Sen. William Proxmire (D) of Wisconsin echoed congressional Democrats' relatively cautious approach to confronting the President, although he did have some ideas for imposing excise taxes and cutting a few billion from Reagan's requests for defense spending.

But the veteran senator, known for his almost uncanny ability to attract both liberals and conservatives to his side, made it clear that he was not ready to launch an all-out effort to try to destroy the President's economic programs.

This senator, as well as other Democrats in Congress, has been talking to the people back home and they are finding that the President still remains popular - enough so that any frontal attack on him might be politically unpopular.

Furthermore, Democrats are admitting, at least privately, that Reagan has taken a big issue away from them by so visibly fighting for - and winning against Democratic opposition - cuts in the income tax.

So there is considerable reluctance on the part of these Democrats to add to this negative image by taking the initiative and pushing hard for excise taxes, particularly those, such as tobacco and liquor taxes, which affect Americans in all economic classes, even the poor.

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