Cry from West: no budget-cutting without consultation
Scottsdale, Ariz. — The so-called ''sagebrush rebellion'' is floundering in the dust of a new whirlwind stirred up in the West. Call it the ''WESTPO revolt.'' The 13 Rocky Mountain and High Plains state governors whose regional action arm is called the Western Governors Policy Office (WESTPO) issued a blunt warning to the Reagan administration Nov. 7, at the close of their annual meeting here.
In a 1980s version of the 13 colonies' cry - ''No taxation without representation'' - the governors of a region that anchored President Reagan's victory a year ago issued a warning that says in effect: ''No more budget cutting without consultation.''
In a strongly worded resolution, the governors charged ''undue reliance on reductions in the domestic sector, particularly federal grants-in-aid'' in the budget cutting process. They said, ''We are willing to continue our support for efforts to balance the federal budget but only through a legitimate sorting out of functions not through inadequate funding of block grants, incremental across-the-board cuts, or vague promises of future tax turn-backs.''
In another resolution, the WESTPO governors called for ''broad-based, shared decisionmaking on all federal mineral leasing and land use decisions,'' but made no mention of the sagebrush-rebellion objective of having vast federal landholdings in the Western states turned over to those states.
In a news conference announcing their resolution, Govs. Bruce Babbitt (D) of Arizona, Richard D. Lamm (D) of Colorado, and Scott M. Matheson (D) of Utah said they felt the releasing of federal land in the West ''is not now a feasible solution to the problem of management'' and that ''WESTPO is skeptical about the wisdom of wholesale transfers of title to the states.'' Governor Babbitt said Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt - once a leader of the sagebrush rebellion - appears to have ''retired from the battlefield.''
In their press conference, Governors Babbitt, Lamm, and Matheson were even more outspoken about the administration's ''random trimming'' of the fiscal 1982 budget than was the official resolution. Their criticism reflected views earlier expressed by other governors in conference sessions. Gov. William Janklow (R) of South Dakota was especially eloquent in decrying the administration's across the board reduction of funds without accompanying changes in entitlement programs.
Governor Babbitt, WESTPO chairman for 1982, said the states ''will not be partners'' to any more random trimming and that '' serious sustained discussion'' of cuts is necessary in the future.
Governor Matheson said he had been discussing the matter with governors from other regions of the United States and there are ''strong indications of support'' among governors of both parties.
WESTPO governors directed their staff to prepare a letter to President Reagan , leaders of the House and Senate, and all members of Congress informing them of the policy statement issued here. They also will request a meeting with David A. Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, next month to ''discuss the impacts of federal budget reductions and the options of sorting out program responsibilities.''
If the governors fail at the White House, said Matheson, they will take their case to Congress.
The executive committee of the National Governors Association is to meet with President Reagan Dec. 4. Governor Lamm, a member of the committee, said Nov. 7 that the Western governors will have an ''affirmative strategy rather than a reactive strategy'' in dealing with federal budget cuts - that they will present proposals as to how best to apportion the budget cuts for the next fiscal year. Babbitt noted that the President got his initial budget cuts through Congress with the help of 50 governors. But he added ''the cards will be stacked differently next time.''
Members of WESTPO besides Governors Babbit, Lamm, Matheson, and Janklow are Govs. Jay S. Hammond (R) of Alaska, John V. Evans (D) of Idaho, Ted Schwinden (D) of Montana, Charles Thone (R) of Nebraska, Robert F. List (R) of Nevada, Bruce King (D) of New Mexico, Alan Olson (R) of North Dakota, John Spellman (R) of Washington, and Ed Herschler (D) of Wyoming.
Governor Herschler, 1981 chairman of WESTPO was unable to attend because of illness. Others not attending but represented by subordinates were Governors Thone, List, and Spellman.