A divided public service advisory board of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes union issued a statement yesterday on government tax and spending limitations with some members saying in some circumstances such limitations might be useful.
The board, an 18-member group drawn from state government, academia, business and other fields with sentiments ranging from liberal to conservative, was set up in 1976 to advise the union on public policy matters. The union has no control over its statements, according to the current chairman, Arnold Weber, provost of Carnegie-Mellon University and Labor in the Nixon administration.
Spending or tax limitations, such as Proposition 13, approved by California voters last year, could have a major impact on the union member's future wages and jobs. One union official, Don McClure, said that sentiment for such limits is still running strongly in many state legislatures.
The advisory board declared, "limitations are not a quick fix" for the problem of inflation, which the board considers the most important reason for the popularity for Proposition 13 and similar proposals. "Inflation has left people wary of taxes which further diminish their income, and disturbed over the growing size of government which many believe is a major cause of inflation," the statement said.
Those groups that have always opposed an active government have successfully capitalized on these public anxieties to encourage the belief tax and spending limitations will solve the country's economic ills," it continued.
The board unanimously labeled the severe or too inflexible," and said they should never be applied at the federal level "where the need for flexibility is greatest."
Beyond that point, the advisory split in several groups. Some members opposed "any limitations in all situations, especially because shifts of social responsibilities to the public sector are likely to continue in the future."
Another group supported "statutory" as opposed to "constitutional" restrictions. Others would go along only "in the short run when a larger unit of government has assumed the financial responsibility for what previously had been a local function."
Sen. John Marchi, the Republican chairman of the New York State Senate Finance Committee and a member of the advisory board, summed up what he called an "expression of the dominant opinion" on the board: "we ought not to be marching into the next decade with a lot of constitutional or statutory fetters."
Another member, Anthony Downs, a senior fellow at the Brooklings Institution here, was one who thought that limitations "could be useful if a fairly high proportion of personal income is already being spent by the state and local governments." California and New York were two states in which that might apply, he said.
The public has embraced the limitation movement because it lacks clearly defined alternatives," the statement concluded. "some alternatives do exist. The tax structure can be made more equitable. The states can assume a larger share of fiscal responsibility for programs now funded at local levels. And improvements can be made in government efficiency and productivity."