Walter W. Heller, 71, a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and the father of the historic tax cut of 1964 that stimulated unprecedented growth in the nation's economy, died Monday night in Silverdale, Wash., after a heart attack.

A Minneapolis resident, he was visiting family members when he was stricken.

A professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota and a former president of the American Economics Association, Dr. Heller was one of the most respected fiscal economists of his time. He was a leading exponent of the theories of John Maynard Keynes, the British thinker who advocated tax cuts and budget deficits as a way of increasing economic strength, and he successfully pressed his views on Presidents Kennedy and Johnson when such ideas were a novelty in the American experience.

Named chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in 1961 by President Kennedy, he remained in that job under President Johnson until the end of 1964. Dr. Heller was a consultant to the Johnson White House from 1965 to 1969 and he advised President Ford from 1974 to 1977. He also was an adviser to the Congressional Budget Office, the United Nations, the Brookings Institution and other public and private organizations.

The high point of his government service was the passage in 1964 of a $14 billion tax cut despite a federal budget deficit. This set off the longest period of sustained economic growth in the nation's history. Although the work of a Democratic administration, it is cited by politicians and economists of widely differing views, including members of the Reagan administration, as a model of economic policy.

Dr. Heller also was a principal architect of the federal government's revenue-sharing plan with state and local governments and he helped establish guidelines that tied wages and prices to productivity. And he was an advocate of coupling economic growth with "increased investment in human capital through education, training and research," as he told the Congressional Joint Economic Committee in March 1961.

Although distrusted in some influential quarters in business and government as a liberal "spender," Dr. Heller was as concerned about curbing inflation as he was about promoting growth. If demand should outrun production and produce inflation, he said, demand could be tamed by raising taxes and thereby reducing the amount of money consumers have to spend. In 1967, as the war in Vietnam began to generate serious inflationary pressures, a "surtax" was enacted by the Johnson administration for this purpose.

After leaving government, Dr. Heller returned to the University of Minnesota, wrote a number of influential books, including "Economic Growth and Environmental Quality" in 1973 with Milton Friedman, and "The Economy: Old Myths and New Realities" in 1976, and spoke and wrote frequently on current events. Despite surgery in 1978 for cancer of the prostate, he maintained a full schedule -- at the time of his death he was a commentator on the "Nightly Business Report" program on public television.

He once called the Reagan administration's supply-side economics program a "supply-side fairy tale" and in remarks prepared for broadcast on the just-completed economic summit conference in Venice he chided the administration for refusing to back a tax increase to cut down the budget deficit.

On another occasion, in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, he said the administration's proposal for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget was a "simplistic approach {that} is beset with simply prohibitive difficulties of definition, administration, evasion and incentives for bad government practice."

Walter Wolfgang Heller was born in Buffalo on Aug. 27, 1915. His parents, Ernst and Gertrude Warmburg Heller, immigrated from Germany. His father was an engineer and mathematician and his mother also came from a professional family. Young Heller graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and earned master's and doctoral degrees in economics at the University of Wisconsin. He wrote his thesis on state income tax laws.

During World War II, he worked for the Treasury Department in Washington and helped set up the income tax withholding system. In 1946, he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota. He spent 1947 working for the U.S. military government in Germany and in 1951 returned there as an official of the Marshall Plan for the postwar economic recovery of Europe.

He was a full professor of economics at Minnesota and a consultant to Gov. Orville L. Freeman in 1960 when he was introduced to Sen. John F. Kennedy by Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.).

In "The Free Enterprisers: Kennedy, Johnson and the Business Establishment," Hobart Rowen described how Kennedy, campaigning for the presidency, bombarded the professor with questions about growth rates, tax policy, prices, inflation and spending programs.

"Heller was entranced, and Kennedy impressed," Rowen wrote. "Heller was an enthusiastic Democrat, articulate, with a sense of the real world mixed in with a certain professorial reserve."

After his election, Kennedy offered the chairmanship of the Council of Economic Advisers to his favorite economist, Paul Samuelson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In declining, Samuelson recommended Dr. Heller, as did others close to Kennedy, and so the professor came to Washington.

Dr. Heller already was convinced that there was a gap between the economy's performance and its potential and he thought that a sizable tax cut would provide the stimulus for closing it. The ground had been prepared for this by the relatively sluggish economic growth of the Eisenhower years and the recession of 1958, the aftermath of which contributed to Kennedy's narrow victory over Richard M. Nixon in 1960.

However, there were more elements in the decision process than the question of growth. On the domestic front, there was the political difficulty of cutting taxes without balancing the budget. On the international side, there was the necessity of protecting the balance of payments and the equally stern necessity of reassuring foreign interests about budget policy. At the behest of C. Douglas Dillon, his secretary of the Treasury, Kennedy opted to put off tax reforms at least until 1963.

In an essay in "New Dimensions of Political Economy" in 1966, Dr. Heller said he had used the argument that a tax cut was necessary to avoid a recession, not merely to close the gap. In a remark that illustrates both his wit and his ease with the language, he said, "In this case, expediency may have been the mother of principle . . . . Nothing succeeds like success."

Dr. Heller's wife, the former Emily K. Johnson, died in 1985. Survivors include three children, Kaaren Louise Davis and Walter P. and Eric J. Heller.