President Carter plans to send an amended fiscal 1978 budget to Congress next Tuesday calling for a deficit between $58 billion and $61 billion, an authoritative administration official told the Washington Post yesterday.
The deficit figure would be from $11 billion to $14 billion higher than the $47 billion deficit estimated by the Ford administration based on receipts of $393 billion and expenditures of $440 billion.
Final figures are not expected to be tabulated until tonight, but the Carter receipts estimate is expected to be a shade under $400 billion, wih the expenditure total approaching $460 billion.
The increase over the Fords $393 billion receipts estimate results from scrapping former President Ford's proposed permanent tax cut, and substituting Carter's proposed tax cut program for individuals and business.
The $460 billion expenditure reflects the impact of the Carter spending programs for jobs in fiscal 1978, plus the abandonment of what an official said were "unreasonable and in some cases irresponsible spending reductions, proposed by Ford.
Details were lacking yesterday, but it was learned that Carter budget officials restored almost all of the $7.7 billion in cuts that the outgoing administration proposed in Medicare-Medicaid spending, for food stamps, child nutrition, and related health-welfare programs.
The new administration also made partially offsetting reductions including a reportedly sizable cut in the Ford military spending figure of $112.3 billion for fiscal 1978.
Nevertheless, in his message to Congress, Carter is expected to stress that the fiscal 1978 budget - along with the boosted deficit - is still basically the responsibility of the Ford administration.
"It's not our deficit. It stems from an economic situation which was largely Ford's [responsibility]," an official said. "You'll get a much better picture of what the Carter administration stands for when we send our own budget up for fiscal 1979." Fiscal 1979 starts Oct. 1, 1978.
Meanwhile, the White House announced that Carter had directed his Cabinet "to prepare for the implementation of zero-base budgeting" for use in fiscal 1979. Under this system, all programs are reviewed as if they were new ones, to see if the old spending commitments are justified.
Carter, it was learned, plans an April meeting with his Cabinet to discuss "policy issues" for the fiscal 1979 budget.
The difference between the $58 billion and $61 billion estimates of the fiscal 1978 deficit represents decisions still outstanding. The lower limit is what the Office of Management and Budget would like to establish. The higher number represents the deficit based on amended requests from all government departments.
Official stressed the difficulty of changing the basic scope of the 1978 budget in a brief time. The amended budget is "prudent to the extent that we have been able to adjust it in three weeks," an official said, "but it's a little like being told to edit a novel, but keep the plot the same."
Contrary to views expressed by some financial experts, administration officials said there will be no trouble in financing a deficit of the new projected dimensions for fiscal 1978, which starts Oct. 1.
"It's going to be much smaller than the fiscal 1977 deficit," an official said, "and the improvement shows the direction we want to go in."
But he conceded that he is "concerned" with the psychological impact of another big budget deficit, and the public fears that it may generate about renewed inflation.
In a telephone interview yesterday money market expert Henry S. Kaufman of Salomon Bros. in New York said that a fiscal year 1978 budget deficit over $55 billion raises the specter on Wall Street of a shortage of money to finance such a deficit at a time of business expansion.
In the financial markets, the phrase describing what Kaufman outlined is "crowding out." One result could be higher interest rates, depressing stock market levels.
The starting point for the Carter budget process was not the set of Ford budget numbers featured in news stories when it was sent to Congress, but a table in the document estimates what the budget would have looked like if there had been no Ford proposals to change taxes or expenditures.
That showed receipts of $407.6 billion for fiscal 1978, expenditures of $445.4 billion, and a deficit of $37.8 billion. To that, the Carter OMB added $4.1 billion shown in the Ford document - but not included in its budget - for inflation adjustments and recession program renewals. That made a bedrock deficit figure of $41.9 billion - the rough equivalent of extension of current services - for the Carter budget people to start with.
Taking into account the reduced revenues and higher expenditures in fiscal 1978 caused by the stimulus package, the $41.9 billion figure grew to about $58 billion.
From there, the Carter budgeters have been trying to juggle other adjustments, retaining some of the Ford expenditure cuts, and trying to add some of its own.
The final product, an official said, is "reasonable," but he added that it will require "considerable consideration from Congress."