Local leaders say Reagan breaks promise with new cuts
Washington — By proposing a second round of budget cuts, President Reagan has created for himself a new achelon of political opponents. The nation's governors, mayors, and county officials -- including many conservative Republicans and staunch Reagan-supporters -- say the President has gone too far in reducing federal aid to state and local governments. In particular, they say Mr. Reagan has broken a campaign promise in moving now to reduce federal revenue sharing.
This opposition, particularly when coupled with the defection of the "gypsy moths" and other moderate congressional Republicans, could present the key battle in what is predicted to be the "trench warfare" over additional spending cuts. It also represents a clear challenge to the President's goal of a "new federalism" -- turning over many federal programs (and ultimately, taxing power) to state and local governments.
Until now, many local officials (especially Republicans and those from smaller communities) have warily accepted White House budgetary goals. But now they see the prospect for even deeper cuts than the $13 billion announced in the President's speech last week, and they plan to fight them.
The effect of the cuts on local programs is "way out of line," according to Missouri Gov. Christopher S. Bond (R). About half the new cuts are in state or local aid.
Reducing revenue sharing, says Phoenix Mayor Margaret Hance (also a Republican), is "a grave breach of the urban commitment President Reagan made during his campaign."
"I would view more cuts in those programs we negotiated on to be a failure to live up to an agreement," said Rep. S. William Green (R) of New York, a leader of Republicans from the Northeast and Midwest who are concerned about urban housing and mass transit programs.
The inclusion of revenue sharing in the 12 percent across-the-board cuts (announced by the President in his television speech) was debated within the administration almost as strenuously as the defense budget, Mr. Reagan told county officials. They believe his decision to do so clearly contradicts a campaign promise. "I pledge that when elected, reenactment of revenue sharing will be among my highest domestic priorities," Mr. Reagan said to the National Association of Countries a year ago.
Under heavy political pressure, the White House did not include its desired "cap" on medicaid (health care for the poor) as part of the new $13 billion in cuts. But following a meeting with the President last week, some governors were left with the impression that this might be sought as a part of further cuts for 1982.
Beyond that, they view with increasing trepidation the prospect for $70 billion to $80 bilion in further budget cuts in 1983 and 1984.
"We've already taken more than our fair share of cuts," says Fred Jordan, spokesman for the National League of Cities. "Housing assitance is already down by a third, public service jobs have been cut out, waste water treatment is at zero as of next Thursday [the beginning of new fiscal year]."
The National League of Cities (which represents thousands of small communities as well as large cities) generally has supported the President thus far. But now, says Mr. Jordan, "We're going to fight, and I think we're going to win."
All of this threatens the careful restructing of relations between Washington and local government. As the price for its acquiesence on budget cuts, governor were promised direct consultation, enough time to prepare for reductions, and new flexibility in administering what were to be cuts of no more than 25 percent.
As it turns out, many programs will be slashed more than 25 percent and local officials still are waiting for the flexibility promised by the White House in the form of deragulation. Categorical programs have been consolidated into reduced block grants, but many federal "strings" are attached.
"In this latest round of cuts, we weren't consulted in advance and we didn't have any lead time," complains Governor Bond.
President Reagan needs the cooperation of governors and mayors for his economic recovery program and "new federalism" to work. Cuts such as these will make that difficult to obtain.