"This country has gone on now for a year without a budget and we're into the second year without a budget, and that is no way to run a railroad," quoth President Reagan this weekend as he excoriated Congress for failing to pass appropriations bills on time. He was about half right.

The president was referring to the "budget" as the total spending level set in the 13 annual appropriations bills through which Congress funds the government. Last year, Congress only got around to enacting eight of the bills; the rest of the government was funded all year on "temporary" spending authority under the stopgap bills known as "continuing resolutions." So it would be more accurate to say that last year, the government operated with eight-thirteenths of a budget or that eight-thirteenths of the government operated with a budget.

So far, the government is operating pretty much "without a budget" for the current fiscal year. In fact, Congress has finished work on only one fiscal 1982 appropriations bill.

Which one? The legislative branch appropriation--which means that Congress and its staff continued to earn their pay yesterday while the rest of the government was technically out of money.