President Reagan went to Camp David for the weekend yesterday, apparently undecided on the big budget question before him: whether to propose some increased taxes.
Aides say he needs a tax increase to keep next year's likely deficit within acceptable bounds, but he is resisting.
They have proposed that tax increases be woven together with proposals to make some shifts in current federal and state spending responsibilities. The federal government, under the plan reportedly under consideration, would take on the state share of Medicaid, the costliest of all current welfare programs.
In return, according to some accounts, the second-costliest, food stamps, would be shifted entirely from the federal level to the state, and the states would also be called upon to take up the full burden of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, now shared between the federal and state treasuries.
Whether states would then be free to drop the stamps and welfare programs after the federal government dropped them has not been made clear. The states also reportedly would be compensated for their added costs in these shifts by part of the new tax revenues Reagan would seek; the remaining revenues would be used to lower the deficit.
Governors have been uncertain in their reactions to these contemplated shifts, wanting first to see the fine print.
Meanwhile, a survey released yesterday indicated that a majority of states face the choice between raising taxes and cutting spending because of the effects of the recession.
Thirty-nine states are forecasting 1982 balances of 5 percent or less, and 29 of these estimate their balances will be 1 percent or less, according to the survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures. A balance is a surplus or deficit expressed as a percentage of annual spending. A 5 percent balance traditionally has been considered the minimum needed to guard against unforeseen developments.
New England and the Great Lakes region have the most uniformly serious budget problems, but most regions, including the Sun Belt, are affected.
Washington, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, Kentucky, Massachusetts and California are among the states with the most serious problems.
On the other hand, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have large budget surpluses, for the most part because of revenue from their oil, gas or coal industries.
States like Colorado, Florida, Virginia that once had comfortable balances have seen them shrink or disappear.
The cutbacks of federal aid are not the primary cause of the states' problems, the survey found, but they could hardly have come at a worse time.