The Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office will report this week that the 1986 federal deficit appears to be roaring beyond last year's record and without further action could be nearly $220 billion, government sources said yesterday.
The deficit for fiscal 1985, which ended Sept. 30, was $212 billion, the highest in the nation's history.
The new estimate is to be made public Wednesday and represents the first stage in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law requiring a balanced budget by 1991. The law sets yearly targets for reducing the deficit and provides for automatic cuts if the president and Congress fail to meet the targets.
The automatic cut or "sequestration" this year of $11.7 billion is expected to take effect March 1, reducing the deficit by that amount. The report from the budget offices this week will detail how this cut would be spread among federal agencies.
The report will be submitted to the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, which later will report to the president on the spending cuts needed, although this process is being challenged on constitutional grounds in federal court.
The size of the automatic cut this year -- $11.7 billion -- was fixed by Congress in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law. But the new estimate of nearly $220 billion could make it harder for President Reagan and Congress to meet the deficit targets in future years.
For example, the target for next year is a deficit of $144 billion. White House officials had predicted that the deficit would be $194 billion, meaning they would need to pare $50 billion in spending. Now it appears that a larger cut may be needed to meet the target.
Reagan is to submit his fiscal 1987 budget to Congress about Feb. 3. Although the president has promised to fight a tax increase, some members of Congress have said one will be necessary if the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings targets are to be met.
Reagan also has said he will seek a 3 percent increase above inflation in defense spending, but Congress is expected to reduce that to help meet the deficit targets.
In the past, the OMB and the CBO have often differed on deficit estimates. But government officials said the two offices did not differ significantly on the latest estimate, which is influenced by many factors, including assumptions about the economy.
On Friday, the two agencies took a "snapshot" of the anticipated deficit for fiscal 1986, which began Oct. 1. Officials said they were "fine-tuning" the estimate but that it is "nearly $220 billion."
This compares to the $171.9 billion estimate in the congressional budget resolution approved last August, although both the CBO and the White House predicted at the time that the deficit was certain to be larger.
Officials said the deficit outlook is deteriorating because of slower economic growth than had been expected, higher farm costs for the government and the failure to implement the deficit savings in the so-called reconciliation bill, which Congress failed to approve last month.
White House officials said the 1986 deficit would have been reduced by $7 billion to $8 billion if the reconciliation bill had passed. Congressional estimates were higher. Should Congress approve the reconciliation bill this year, the 1986 deficit would be reduced.
Thus, the OMB-CBO estimate of nearly $220 billion is not what the deficit will finally be, but rather a "snapshot" of the projected red ink as of now.