'Let's get on with it'

Remember those reassurances from various Washington officials that a budget compromise would be forthcoming by March or so? Then the deadline was moved up to the Easter holiday. The holiday came and went and the public was told that a compromise was still possible, although it would come a little later but perhaps still in time to meet a May 15 congressional budget deadline. Well, here is the last week of April, and the talk now is not about the specifics of an actual budget compromise but, rather, setting ''broad'' target levels on revenues and cuts that would then be used by Congress in working out the details of the budget. The details, of course, to come later.

Admittedly, hammering out a budget is difficult under the best of circumstances. Budgets are not so much financial agreements as political documents, reflecting diverse ideological considerations. When political authority is divided between the White House and the two branches of Congress this process becomes even more complicated. At the same time, such a situation would seem to call out for even a greater sense of responsibility on the part of lawmakers. That neither the administration or Congress has yet been able to reach a consensus on budget specifics - not just broad target levels - seems outrageous, given the need to lift the nation out of the current recession.

The reason for prompt action on a budget, after all, remains the need to assuage the concerns of the US financial community about projected budget deficits - apprehensions that have held interest rates at high levels. Without any cuts or new taxes the fiscal year 1983 deficit is now expected to reach a staggering $180 billion.

In his speech to the Chamber of Commerce of the US this week, President Reagan, while renewing his call for a budget compromise, ruled out a retreat on his defense and tax programs. Congress, for its part, appears unwilling to accept a surtax or significant reductions in federal entitlement programs. Given such still basically rigid positions on both sides, how can lawmakers be reasonably expected to work out a detailed budget acceptable to the administration within the framework of ''broad'' targets now being discussed as a way out of the impasse?

It is no secret in Washington that a number of federal agencies are currently operating under a continuing resolution, rather than a formal 1982 fiscal year budget. Government by continuing resolution should not be allowed to become the norm. In his remarks to businessmen this week Mr. Reagan said that it is time to ''get on with it'' in reaching a compromise. Certainly it is essential that all parties come together on the specifics of a new budget. The time for political posturing should be over. At issue is the well-being of the American economy, and the White House and Congress would seem to have the nation's best interests at heart by recognizing that fact.

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