In a speech to the National League of Cities in Baltimore Monday, Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) said it was "baloney" to suggest that a "New Federalism" program is needed because the federal government had usurped powers from the states. "Profligate we have been, but we did not steal any responsibilities," he said. Durenberger said it was not his intention to label the tentative Reagan administration package as "baloney," as an article stated Wednesday.
The chairman of the Senate subcommittee that will consider the Reagan administration's "new federalism" said yesterday that some of the president's statements on the plan are "baloney" and "about the thinnest dodge I've ever seen."
Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) told the National Association of Counties meeting in Baltimore that "the president is not blessed with any more insight into this than anybody else" and that local officials should continue to press for answers to problems they see in the program.
President Reagan addresses the same group today and is expected to announce details of the "new federalism" program he first proposed in his State of the Union speech in January. The organization is the country's largest group of public officials, with about 5,000 officeholders at the convention representing 2,100 counties across the country.
Durenberger said the controversy over Reagan's proposals for wholesale transfer of federal programs to state and local government, with an attendant dependence on private enterprise to make up much of the loss in federal aid, is a burden on Republicans running for public office this year.
"They raise the big question of this election year," Durenberger said. "Does this administration--does my party--care about the poor? Is the 'new federalism' a smoke screen for a repeal of the New Deal? Is private sector initiatives a fig leaf to cover a lack of compassion?"
Durenberger said the basic idea of the "new federalism" is sound, but failings in its structure and public image are creating problems.
Durenberger, who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee on intergovernmental affairs, attacked Reagan's plan to turn one major welfare program--Aid to Families with Dependent Children--over to the states while having Washington take responsibility for food stamps and the Medicaid program of health care for the needy.
Durenberger said the formula would force food stamp benefits down if a state increased other welfare payments, penalizing states that tried to provide better services while rewarding those that lag behind.
Durenberger took a hard slap at the Reagan theme that "new federalism" is necessary because the national government has usurped state powers.
"That the national government usurped its powers from its creators, the states, is, of course, baloney," Durenberger said. "We shouldn't sacrifice programs that have worked to some simple notion of wrongful usurpation that is blind to the needs of our counties and cities."
Durenberger said a permanent federal trust fund is needed to address the disparity in resources among the states, in place of the eight-year transition Reagan proposes. He called Reagan's plan to turn the disparity problem over to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations "about the thinnest dodge I've ever heard," saying the commission already has concluded that a federal fund for fiscal equalization among the states is necessary.