There was a bit of concern late Wednesday afternoon at the Government Printing Office. Printed and bound copies of the federal budget and all the books that go with it were due to be passed out to the press 40 hours later and the GPO didn't have corrected copy from the Office of Management and Budget.

Budget director David A. Stockman, who had dropped over for the traditional photograph with his new budget and the printers, apologized to Johnson McRorie, deputy assistant public printer for operations. "I hope we're not creating any problems for you," Stockman said.

The fact is, McRorie's boss, Bob McKendry, said later in an interview, "if they don't get it over here by Thursday they're going to have budget briefings without any budget."

In the end, the budget books got out on time--and, in fact, the budget itself was put out ahead of time. When the copies of the budget books were sent to Capitol Hill on Friday, the leaks that followed prompted OMB to lift the embargo on the budget early. Normally the embargo would have lasted until today, when the books go on sale in the GPO bookstores.

Officials at both OMB and GPO say this year was the toughest they have had in terms of meeting the deadlines for getting the budget to press.

"The budget is a decision-forcing event," said Carey (Pete) Modlin, assistant OMB director for budget review and the man responsible for getting OMB's act together. "No one other thing in government has that kind of decision-forcing ability. We have our own printer, Larry Breese, and at some point he says, 'If you want the budget, I have to have the copy.' " Breese spoke and the copy was finally delivered.

OMB spends between two-thirds and three-fourths of its annual $2 million printing bill on the budget, Modlin said. This year, as in years past, printers at GPO picked up some overtime. Nobody knows how much yet, "but we would have had to have the copy by last Monday if we were going to avoid that," GPO's McKendry said. OMB pays the bill.

The pressure was being felt at OMB, too. "We worry a little when we get squeezed," Modlin said. "There comes a time when we need to review whatever is in the system. The probability is that mistakes will be made when we are rushing."

The much reported debate within the administration over whether there were going to be tax increases and how much of which programs would be cut contributed to the delays in getting to the printer. Additionally, many of OMB's budget crunchers were still fiddling with the fiscal 1982 budget well into the time when they would normally have been working on the new budget for fiscal 1983.

The technology that has changed all of printing in a few short years also made it possible for OMB to be late and still get printed budgets to the bookstores. Much of the "type" for the budget was entered on an OMB word processor and transferred automatically to a GPO type-setting computer as early as November. When corrections or additions were needed, they were typed into the GPO computer.

Nonetheless, GPO didn't know how to number the pages or how to set up its presses until the last of the corrections were in.

OMB's word processors can "talk" to GPO's type-setting computer for standard text only. Charts and tables, which make up a great portion of the budget books, have to be entered by hand at GPO. Both OMB and GPO look to the day when their computers will speak fluently to each other in both text and charts, but that day is still a few years away, Modlin said.

The first of the budget books completed this year was the appendix, the thick volume any serious student of the budget must have. This year's appendix has 1,136 pages, a decrease from last year's 1,200.

The budget book itself has 600 pages, down from 664. The budget-in-brief, the three-color job that gives GPO the biggest printing headache of the budget books, has the same number of pages as last year, 96. In addition there are 11 separate special analyses and a book called "Major Themes and Additional Budget Details."

In addition to slimming down the books, OMB also reduced the press run (by limiting the numbers of budget books it is giving away). Only 21,000 copies of the budget are being printed (down from 29,000); 15,500 copies of the appendix (down from 20,500) and 34,000 copies of the budget in brief (down from 65,000).

They're not giving them away either. The budget costs $7.50, the appendix $17 and the budget in brief $4. "Major Themes" costs $7 and the special analyses cost $2.50 or $3, depending on their size. Those prices, a jump from last year, might be called a management initiative.