When it comes to budget cuts, Reps. Kent R. Hance, Charles E. Stenholm and Jack Hightower of Texas are President Reagan's kind of Democrat. But tax cuts are another matter for the three -- charter members of the conservative coalition that Reagan is relying on for approval of his economic program in Congress.
The three Texans are right in tune with their constituents in backing Reagan's budget cuts all the way. But rural Texas' disdain for budget deficits, including the $45 billion deficit that Reagan's tax cut would spawn for fiscal 1982, rang out loud and clear at a town hall meeting that Hance held here one evening last week.
"How many of you are in favor of the president's spending cuts?" asked Hance. Nearly every hand went up.
"How many of you are in favor of the president's tax cut?" he continued. Fewer hands went up this time, but still a big majority.
"Now, how many of you want me to vote for a $45 billion deficit this year?" Hance asked. Very few hands went up.
"Balance the budget," said Mrs. Bill D. Lane of Lubbock. "Do what you have to do, and if you still see a way to give us a tax break, fine. But $130 won't do me any good."
Before the meeting, Hance had predicted the response. "People in my district will forgo a tax cut to get something done on inflation," he said.
Hance's Panhandle colleague, Hightower, agreed. "There's a lot more agreement on spending cuts that on tax cuts," he said. "Everyone has his own ideas about the taxes."
The conservative Democrats might be able to sell their constituents on the Kemp-Roth plan for a three-year, 30 percent across-the-board tax cut, which Reagan has basically adopted. But they have no desire to try. Many of them ran against Kemp-Roth.
It is possible, however, that Hance, who heads the tax group of the Conservative Democratic Forum, will become the agent for putting together a substitute tax bill acceptable to Reagan. Hance, who like Reagan supports a three-year tax cut, indicated confidence that Reagan would be happy with what they draft.
The goal of the conservative Democrats is to put together a tax-spending program that would produce a fiscal 1982 deficit of $20 billion to $25 billion. "I'm confident the House will not pass a tax cut greater than the Reagan cut," said Stenholm; "any amount less will cut the deficit."