President Carter's energy conservation program will mean higher prices that will bear particularly heavily on low-income groups, energy adviser james R. Schlensinger Jr. said yesterday.
But any price increases - possible on gasoline and&or large cars - "will all be offset by lower prices or lower taxes elsewhere . . . not necessarily in the energy sector," he said.
Schlesinger, appearing on "Issues and ANswers" (ABC, WMAL), said the administration could seek a reduction in payroll taxes - possibly those for Social Security - in an effort to counterbalance the effects of increased fuel or vehicle costs in the yet-to-be-announced energy program.
"We are considering a whole range of alternatives . . . in order to offset the penalty on lower-income groups in particular because of the major adjustments in price relationships taht must come over a period of years" in attempting to solve the nation's energy problems, he said.
Carter plans to present his energy conservation program to Congress by April 20. Schlesinger said one of the main points of that program will be "to challenge the American people with regard to the very high use of gasoline."
A higher tax on large, gas-guzzlong cars is "certainly under consideration" by the administration, Schlesinger said. But he said the administration has made no final decision about a car tax or an increase in gasoline taxes.
"We will have to consider both of those kinds of technique [taxes] in order to see which is the most effective package," he said.
Asked about criticism from General Motors officials who say higher car taxes would hurt the automobile industry, Schlesinger replied: "What's good for General Motors is still not necessarily what's good for the United States."
Senate Republican leader Howard H. Baker, Jr. appearing on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WTOP), said Republicans could support Carter in imposing higher taxes on larger cars. But would oppose any move to increase gasoline taxes.
"I support the idea of having fuel - efficient cars," the Tennessee Republican said. "Maybe a tax in that respect - on the horsepower and the mileage of a car - would be a matter that the administration and the Republicans could agree on."
The Republicans plan to introduce their own energy conservation proposal this month, Baker said. Senate Republicans have scheduled a closed meeting for 9 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the Republican Energy Package, which was drafted by the Republican Energy Group.
Baker said yesterday, "there'll be no gas tax in the Republican package because such a tax would penalize about two-thirds of the people in the country who have to use their cars because they don't have the option of public transporation."
Instead, Baker said the Republicans are considering a proposal that would give "more petroleum products to transportation and essential services and less to the generation of electricity.