The chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee warned yesterday that they will oppose election-year efforts to cut the Social Security tax, which Congress raised last year.
Chairman Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) said that while he had long favored funding part of Social Security from income-tax reveues instead of payroll taxes. "I hope we take plenty of time to examine what we're doing." He added, "I don't like to see that come simply as a reaction to public reaction" to last year's tax boosts.
Senior Republican Henry Bellmon (Okla.) said that before considering general revenues to fund Social Security, Congress should try other methods of raising moneyto ease the payroll tax such as including federal and state government workers in Social Security (which initially would boost collections more than costs), and making a series of other changes to trim costs here and there.
"I don't think (the Budget Committee) is going to (plan for) any change in the Social Security tax structure unless we get some reforms," said Bellmon.
Another committee member, Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) said in an interview, "The better approach is a major (general) tax cut which we'll be doing anyway."
The remarks by Muskie, Bellmon and Domenici illustrated that despite rising clamor, particularly in the House, for action to block scheduled Social Security tax increases before the November elections, there is still substantial oppostion to a "quick fix" pre-election cut in payroll taxes that would have to be made up from Treasury income tax revenues.
Yesterday Health Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. told the Budget committee that the administration opposes cutting Social Security taxes this session. But he said that eventually he saw no alternative to using some Treasury revenues, because "the American people are up to the throat with the payroll tax . . . we've got the Social Security payroll tax about as far as we can take that payroll tax now?"
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, there were reports that some White House officials are preparing to recommand that President Carter at least look at the possibility of switching his position and endorsing a Social Security tax cut this year, with losses to the Social Security trust fund to be made up from general income tax revenues. The administration supported this idea last year but Congress rejected it. So far in 1978, the administration has been saying it doesn't want to reopen the financing issue this year but prefers to give taxpayers relief through its proposed general cut in income taxes.