Congressional conferees remained deadlocked yesterday on a fiscal 1979 budget, but apparently are exploring whether they can agree on an overall spending total without agreeing on spending for public service jobs.
The conferees have been at loggerheads for a week over whether any money should be included in the fiscal 1979 budget (which starts Oct. 1) for spending on new public works projects.
Until Congress passes a binding 1979 budget, the legislators cnnot enforce either spending ceilings or revenue floors for next year.
The Senate Finance Committee hopes to bring a tax cut bill to the Senate floor soon. If a binding budget is not in place presumably there will be no technical limit on the size of the tax cut. The House passed a $16.3 billion tax cut last month while the Senate verion of the budget will permit one as big as $19.4 billion.
The Senate and the House were supposed to have agreed upon a budget by last Friday.
The Senate wants to spend no money at all on new public works projects next year, while the House originally provided $2 billion in its budget. The money would be used for programs to build new public facilities as well as for a special program designed to put hard-to-employ individuals at work on maintenance projects in the inner city.
By a 63-to-21 vote last week, the Senate directed its conferees, headed by budget committee chairman Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) to allow no money for public works. Senate sources say that vote effectively kills the chances of Congress passing any public works legislation this year.
But Rep. Robert N. Giaimo (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, has said he cannot get the House to approve a budget that does not contain money for public works projects.
Sources said there is the possibility the two houses couls smooth over their differences by agreeing to the original, $8.9 billion Senate figure for spending in the budget category that includes both public works and Small Business Administration disaster loans.
The House estimates that these disaster loans will cost $600 million less than the Senate does.
Apparently, if the House and the Senate agree on the same number, the House could treat the $600 million as money for public works, while the Senate would consider it funds for anticipated SBA loan losses.
The budget does not contain funds earmarked for specific programs, but only sets out overall spending and taxing totals.
Sources on both committees said it is not clear whether the conferees will agree to such a set of differing assumptions as a way out of the impasse. But both the Senate and the House in the past have agreed to the same overall budget, but disagreed on exactly how they though those funds would be spent.
If the conferees are unable to agree in a session this morning, they must, under law, report back to their respective bodies in disagreement and try again.