State and local governments have been the biggest winners so far in the Reagan administration's regulatory rollback, according to figures presented to the president last week by Christopher DeMuth, the new head of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
OMB figures it has saved governments and regulated industries a total of $500 million in annual costs and $3.8 billion to $5.9 billion in one-time start-up costs. (The Transportation Department's recent decision to revoke rules requiring airbags or automatically closing seat belts in new automobiles by 1984 may mean an additional savings of $100 million in one-time costs and $1 billion in annual costs.)
The biggest items eliminated, said OMB spokesman Ed Dale, were the original regulations requiring mass transit systems to be accessible to the handicapped ($140 million in annual costs, $2.6 billion in capital costs) and regulations on providing bilingual education in public schools ($70 million to $160 million in annual costs, $900 million to $2.9 billion in start-up costs.)
Critics of deregulation, however, say the savings figures fail to reflect the rules' potential economic benefits, such as productivity increases attributable to more handicapped people being able to work. From another perspective, the American Public Transit Association notes OMB didn't mention the cost of substitute handicapped access regulations, which DOT is still calculating; the new version could cost almost as much as the old.