Rep. James M. (Jim) Jeffords (R-Vt.) was the only Republican in the House to vote against the Reagan tax cut in 1981, and he voted for the tax increase bill this year. So, on the face of it, he might have been a bit nervous facing the business people at the party the Rutland Chamber of Commerce gave one evening for the operators of neighboring ski resorts.

But interest rates were falling, the stock market was showing signs of recovery, and Jeffords came home free.

Jeffords said the August vote was "probably easiest for me of anyone in my party; I thought the 1981 cut was excessive, and said so, and I got exposure on national TV, so I probably gained from the whole thing."

Were business people sore? John A. Russell Jr., president of the Rutland Chamber of Commerce, said it was no big deal to him, "because our chamber has decided not to get involved in lobbying on national issues. We're concentrating on local issues."

Russell said his own building business had been "slow, but it ought to get better with interest rates coming down. Things have been good up on the mountain; we've been building condos and second homes in the $100,000-to-$150,000 range and they have been selling 'cause they're right on the ski slopes. The operators had a very good winter, but since spring, business really fell way off. I hope it will pick up now."

Fran Robillard, a retired teacher, told Jeffords, "Everyone is upset about the economy and is worried about Social Security. It seems like we've been up and down with Reagan on this tax proposition, and I can't figure out whether we came out ahead or not." But Robillard said the decline in interest rates should "help tremendously."

Michael Henry, the owner of the California Fruit Market and a Democratic candidate for the legislature, said, "Right now, I think Ronald Reagan has some troubles. If things don't change dramatically between now and November, it could be a Democratic year.

"But now you see the interest rates coming down, and that feeds right into what Reagan has been saying. I can tell you as a businessman, it's tough to operate at 18 percent interest; our whole strategy this past year has been to cut our borrowing, not worry about expansion. People get hurt when you're trying to contract the economy to get inflation down, and I feel for those people."

Gilbert Aliber, director of the Rutland Mental Health program, said, "I'm a fairly conservative person, and a lot of this the budget-cutting was probably necessary. But our governor here had put the emphasis for four years on building accountability into our program, and we had already cut our costs significantly. Our own programs have not been affected, because we've been fully financed by the state since a year before Reagan was elected. But I see the effect of the cuts with our clients, who are losing some of their marginal aid."

"We have 30 kids that are technically not eligible for Head Start any longer. . . . That's the kind of thing you hate to see happen."

Lloyd Kelly, superintendent of Rutland schools, said: "The economies have not been that tough to take. Decisions have moved from the federal to the state and local levels, and that's something we applaud.

"People are talking to each other at state and local levels that didn't used to. . . . The dollars have not kept up with inflation, certainly . . . . What the future will be, I don't know.

"We need federal aid, and we need some of it in categoricals, to stimulate our local efforts; I don't see that diminishing. But to the extent we can make the decisions here ourselves, we will get the most for the money, and I think that's what they're trying to do in Washington now."