Jack Albertine, president of the American Business Conference, a Washington-based business lobby, has signed a new long-term contract at $250,000 a year plus bonuses, he said yesterday.
Albertine thus took himself out of the running for the chairmanship of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers -- a post he said had never been offered to him, discussed with him or solicited by him.
Nonetheless, Albertine, a strong backer of the Reagan economic program, was widely rumored to be favored by some White House officials for the post, which has been vacant since the resignation early this summer of Martin S. Feldstein, who broke with the administration on the deficit issue.
Designation of a new CEA chairman is believed to be relatively low on the current White House list of priorities. But the law requires the president to appoint three members of the council and to designate one as a chairman.
Feldstein went public with his view that the administration could not solve the deficit problem through budget-cutting and economic growth alone. The administration decided not to replace Feldstein at once, fearing that the controversy would be stirred again during a confirmation hearing in the Senate.
During this period, Treasury Secretary Donald T. Regan -- with whom Feldstein publicly broke on the deficit/tax issue -- has been the unchallenged chief economic spokesman for the administration. Treasury Undersecretary Beryl Sprinkel also was used as a general economic spokesman by the Reagan-Bush campaign committee during October and November.
Neither of the two remaining CEA members, William A. Niskanen and William Poole, has been designated acting chairman, as has been customary in past cases of a temporary vacancy in the top council job. Niskanen and Poole are trying to put together the annual report of the council.
Albertine's new contract, from Jan. 1, 1985, will be for a minimum of three years and for as long as he chooses to stay on as the Washington representative of the ABC. Under his present contract, he is paid $100,000 a year. The ABC is a relatively new lobby group representing an influential list of technology and other companies oriented to high growth rates.
Because of his strong identification with the business community, experience on Capitol Hill and opposition to tax increases as a way of reducing the budget deficit, Albertine was thought to fit the White House "job description" for the CEA chairmanship closely. He had been research director for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress under the chairmanship of Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) before joining the ABC.
Albertine said yesterday that the president is right to stick to an anti-tax policy. He predicted that some sort of modified "flat tax" would be passed by Congress, but with the tax revenue result about neutral. A week ago, he offered a reporter 5-to-1 odds against a tax increase; yesterday he raised the ante to 10-to-1 against it.