Congress has agreed to raise more than 80 percent of what the Reagan administration wants to bring in through new and increased fees for those who use federal services, but so far members haven't bought most of the White House ideas on how to do it.
The administration's two big revenue-producing measures--increasing the tax on airline tickets and assessing the nuclear power industry for radioactive waste disposal--have been moving through Congress satisfactorily, according to Office of Management and Budget officials.
However, many of the administration's proposals to generate smaller amounts of money are not on track, three months before the start of the new fiscal year.
The outlook for the dozen major user fees proposed in Reagan's budget Feb. 6 improved this week when Congress passed its budget resolution for fiscal 1983. The administration had called for $2.6 billion in fees, and Congress committed itself to raising $2.1 billion.
"We're relatively pleased with what they did," said OMB spokesman Edwin L. Dale Jr. "The budget resolutions are a boost for the concept of users fees . . . ."
The budget resolution calls for $900 million in fees designed to help offset the federal deficit and $1.1 billion worth of fees to help support particular programs. Later this year the authorizing and appropriations committees must complete the process of translating those targets into specific proposals.
Reagan's budget proposed a wide variety of new and increased fees to cover government services, including some of those provided by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and the National Mediation Board, hydroelectric and other licenses issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Veterans Administration home mortgage guarantees.
While the administration has tried to introduce all of its proposed fees, some have failed to attract any member willing to introduce the necessary legislation.
The administration says it is confident that the increased airline ticket tax and the aviation fuel tax are on track. The two would raise $1.2 billion under the Reagan proposal.
The optimism prevails even though two house committees want to keep the tax at its current 5 percent, rather than the administration's 8 percent. However, officials from both the Transportation Department and the OMB say they think the Senate will approve the administration proposal and that the House will accept it in a conference committee.
OMB's Dale says the final shape of the congressional budget resolution makes the airline ticket tax a better bet.
The Senate, meanwhile, has passed legislation that would charge nuclear reactor operators a fee based on the kilowatt hours of electricity they produce.
The $300 million the fee is expected to raise in fiscal 1983 would cover the cost of operating disposal sites for their waste. The bill is pending before four House committees.
House and Senate committees also have approved increased fees for patent registration and processing, designed to bring in an additional $39 million in the next fiscal year. No floor action has been scheduled.
While administration officials express confidence that these major fees will be enacted this year, others have come under strong attack, and several are considered dead.
The largest involved charging commercial boat owners to pay more of the cost of inland waterways and coastal ports maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. The proposal, which was to generate $328 million in the next fiscal year, has been held up because of a battle between the corps and the DOT.
Farmers and farm-state members of Congress had argued that the fee would increase the cost of getting food to the market and thus the cost to the consumer. DOT has tried to mute the criticism by suggesting that coastal port users pick up more of the costs, but neither idea has found much support.
The administration's most embarrassing setback involved the Interior Department's bill to establish new or higher recreational user fees at the government's recreation areas. Interior pulled back the bill within a week of its submission because of the negative reaction from Congress, hunters and fishermen. The bill, which was expected to raise $63 million in fiscal 1983, probably will not be resubmitted this year, according to a top Interior official.
The administration has not been able to find a member of Congress to sponsor its plan to make recreational boat owners help support the Coast Guard or to increase the fees for nautical charts and maps prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Current law allows the government to recover only the cost of printing the charts, not the survey work involved. Boating groups were instrumental in blocking both proposals.
So far Congress also has ignored administration threats to veto at least one bill that doesn't contain one of the fees it wants: a new charge on commodity transactions to cover the costs of the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC). Both the House and Senate Agriculture committees have refused to include the fee, designed to raise an estimated $22 million in fiscal 1983, in pending legislation.