A bipartisan group of House members led by Budget Committee Chairman James R. Jones (D-Okla.) and Rep. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. (R-S.C.) yesterday called for curtailment of indexing or inflation adjustments of both tax rates and federally financed retirement programs, starting in fiscal 1985.
The proposal tries to capitalize on bipartisan pressure for smaller deficits by linking Republican support for spending cuts to Democratic pressure for modification of recent tax cuts.
"It is a trade we can agree on. It is workable," Campbell said.
The group estimated that the proposal would reduce deficits, expected to exceed $150 billion over the next few years, by $77.6 billion through 1988, starting with a $5.7 billion deficit reduction in fiscal 1985.
Jones said the group will push for congressional action this fall to avoid entanglement of the legislation in 1984 campaign politics. But even some of the proposal's supporters conceded that prospects for quick action appeared dim.
Retirement programs, including Social Security as well as those for federal employes, are currently adjusted annually to account for the full effects of inflation, as registered by the Consumer Price Index. Tax brackets are to be similarly "indexed" starting in 1985.
Under the Jones-Campbell proposal, the tax and benefit adjustments would be for 2 percentage points less than the CPI. If the CPI recorded inflation at 6 percent, the adjustments would be 4 percent.
Some means-tested programs such as food stamps and Aid to Families with Dependent Children also are indexed to inflation but would be exempt on grounds that they have been cut enough, the group said.
A similar bipartisan proposal for a 3-percentage-point offset for tax and pension adjustments is pending in the Senate.
The House members' proposal was announced at a news conference attended by a dozen supporters, mostly from Sunbelt states.
Rep. Brian J. Donnelly (D-Mass.), chairman of the Budget Committee's task force on entitlement programs, said it would be difficult to sell the proposal to members from the industrial Northeast.