Congressional budget writers are moving to earmark the $11 billion in revenues from President Carter's new oil-import fee to provide business and Social Security tax cuts, rather than holding the money in reserve as Carter has requested.
Leaders of the House Budget Committee are preparing to present such a proposal to a caucus of the panel's Democrats in preparation for drafting Congress' fiscal 1981 budget resolution later this week.
In theory, the move would prevent various factions from trying to use the $11 billion to avoid making spending cuts that the president wants to balance the budget.
Committee leaders are said to agree with Carter that Congress should balance the budget by cutting spending, rather than by using the revenues from the oil-import fee, but are fearful that leaving the $11 billion "hanging out there" will set off a scramble.
However, the tax-cutting tactic could set off a skirmish with the administration, which wants lawmakers to hold the $11 billion in new revenue in reserve to bolster the credibility of Carter's pledge that the budget will be balanced.
Carter has asked Congress to enact the spending cuts first and defer consideration of any tax cut until the 1981 session. And Treasury Secretary G. William Miller said yesterday Carter would use his veto power to keep that timetable.
However, the proposal by Budget Committee Democrats, if adopted, would pave the way for the House and Senate tax-writing committees to enact those tax bills this year instead of waiting until the next session.
The panel has asked three members who also serve on the House Ways and Means Committee to explore the tax cut issue. The tax reductions would take effect in 1981 and would not affect the current year.
Budget Committee Chairman Robert N. Giaimo (D-Conn.) said yesterday he hadn't decided on the specifics of a proposal, but declared the panel "will not recommend that the $11 billion be used to offset" the overall budget deficit.
Sources said the tax cut proposal envisions $3 billion in faster depreciation writeoffs for business, to spur productivity, and $10 billion in tax credits to offset the scheduled Jan. 1 Social Security tax hike.
The first pproposal is sponsored by Rep. James R. Jones (D-Okla.) and the second by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.); both members of the Budget and Ways and Means committees. Both plans have been portrayed as "anti-inflationary."
Meanwhile, Henry M. Bellmon (Okla), ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, expressed skepticism yesterday that Congress would approve a separate 10-cent-a-gallon hike in gasoline taxes Carter wants to replace eventually the oil fee.
Speaking on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC), Bellmon called the gasoline tax plan "probably the toughest" of all the proposals Carter has recommended. The president has said he will keep the oil fee in effect until the gasoline tax is passed.
Separately Miller told "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM) he believed Carter's new economic program would reduce inflation to 11 percent this year, compared to the 18 percent annual rate that has prevailed so far this year.
Miller also denied that the White House was keeping its proposed spending cuts secret to avoid angering voters before the March 25 New York primary. Although officials spent weeks drafting specifics, Carter won't reveal them until the end of the month.
The House Budget Committee is expected to begin its markup this week using a Giaimo recommendation for a balanced fiscal 1981 spending plan that cuts $18 billion from the previous $630 billion.
Carter has requested $13 billion to $14 billion in spending cuts, bolstered by the oil import fee and a second revenue-raising measure that would require banks to withhold taxes on interest and dividends. Carter projects spending at $613 billion.