President-elect Jimmy Carter and his top economic advisers met for four hours today to discuss an economic stimulus package that may include some tax reform proposals, a permanent tax reduction and a temporary "tax stimulus" such as a rebate to individuals.
Carter said after the meeting that no decisions were made, that there is still some disagreement among his advisers and that the group deliberately reached no conclusion today so that all options being considered can be discussed with members of Congress at a second meeting scheduled here Friday.
if he can reach "some compatible understanding" with the congressional leadership at the Friday meeting, Carter said he will then make public at least the outlines of his proposals to stimulate the economy.
The newly elected Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate plus the chairmen of key congressional committees that deal with the economy will travel here Friday morning for the meeting with the President-elect and his economic advisers.
In discussing what he calls "the series of options" to be presented to the congressional leadership, Carter spoke in terms of proposing both permanent and temporary tax relief this year to spur the lagging economy.
"We are discussing a permanent tax reduction which would be compatible with long-range (tax) reform plus some temporary tax stimulus that would only be for one year," he said.
Carter provided no further details. However, one such possible combination known to be under consideration would involve a relatively small permanent tax reduction for business - for example by increasing the investment tax credit - coupled with a one-time-only rebate on 1976 income taxes to individual taxpayers.
Carter said "basic tax reform" proposals are being considered as part of the stimulus package. Under further questioning he added that a comprehensive tax reform proposal probably could not be made until late in the year but that "some small elements" involving tax reform may be part of what he proposes to Congress early in his administration.
The President-elect said that he hopes "that some fairly general conclusion" are reached at the meeting with the congressional leaders Friday but predicted that there will be "some differences of opinion left among us."
The sentiment in Congress leans heavily toward spending programs to create jobs rather than tax cuts as a means of stimulating the economy. Carter repeated today that a jobs program is his "top priority" but he refused to discuss how large a stimulus package is being considered or what kind of mix between jobs programs and tax cuts he favors.
He did say that the amount his proposals will add to the federal deficit will be "minor" compared with the built-in deficit in the budget to be proposed by the outgoing Ford administration.
Earlier today, one of the participants in the meeting, Thomas B. (Bert) Lance, Carter's choice as director of the Office of Management and Budget, said a $10 billion increase in the deficit to stimulate the economy would be "tolerable" and that, in his view, $15 billion is the "right ceiling" for the overall stimulus package.
"We have to be very considerate that these stimulus package will add to the deficit which already is very, very high," he said. "If we're not very careful about it, then we're going to cause some real problems in the minds of the American people."
Stuart Eisenstat, Carter's chief policy adviser, said the proposals to stimulate the economy probably will not be presented to Congress until the first week in February. He said Carter will deliver a separate message on other legislative proposals to Congress between mid-February and March 1.
In addition to Lance and Eisenstat, others who attended today's meeting included Vice President-elect Walter F. Mondale, Treasury Secretary-designate W. Michael Blumenthal, Agriculture Secretary-designate Bob Bergland, Labor Secretary-designate F. Ray Marshall, Transportation Secretary-designate Brock Adams, Commerce Secretary-designate Juanita kreps, Charles L. Schultze.Carter's choice to head the Council of Economic Advisers and several members of the Carter transition staff.