"Consistent with budgetary restraint . . . . "
The phrase appears dozens of times in the fine print of President Reagan's new budget appendix, the phone-book-sized document that details the flesh and blood of federal spending for fiscal 1987.
What that means is that spending will be cut. Well, maybe or maybe not.
A reading of the 700-plus pages of the appendix suggests that budgetary restraint, if nothing else, is less than consistent.
Call for Dr. Gramm; call for Dr. Rudman; call for Dr. Hollings: Hey, guys, right underneath your noses, a dandy deficit bomb is ticking. You'd never know it amid the anguished breast-beating, but the cost of the care and feeding of Congress is moving up quite smartly.
*Everyone knows a mile is longer than it used to be, so the House will need more for travel next year. Members' mileage expense accounts will increase from $150,000 to $210,000.
*Maybe they've finally straightened out that confusion over the costs of mailing all of those "Postal Patron" broadsides. The new budget calls for $138.8 million in postage next year, which reads like a huge boost from the current $100 million.
But, deep in the fine print, you'll find that they've already asked for another $44 million this year. But remember, the fiscal year is not yet half over, and there's still an election in the fall.
*The subcommittee on pound foolishness may want to check this out. Those energy-saving solar collectors are apparently paid for and in place on the House office buildings. So what happens to the costs at the Capitol power plant? They want $2 million more this year to buy power from your friendly local public utility, and the cost of running the place next year will increase by another $3 million.
*Committee and member staff payrolls are up -- what else is new? -- but they haven't forgotten the people who really do the work. Both the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Research Service stand to receive hefty budget increases and permission to hire more hands.
It took Christopher Columbus several months to reach the New World, but the budget tells us that the new commission established to celebrate the 500th anniversary of his trip is going to need six years and muchos doubloons to get its act together.
The celebration, to be planned by the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission (CCQJC), won't be until 1992 but, to launch it, the CCQJC's three staff members would be allowed to sail through $220,000 next year under Reagan's budget plan.
While waiting for that big show, we'll have other festivities. They, too, will cost muchos doubloons. The Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, chaired by Chief Justice Warren Burger, is in line for $12 million next year to go with the $13 million in the exchequer.
On top of that, the judiciary, of which Burger is king, wants to have its own toast to the Constitution. The judges are asking $1.5 million to add to a $500,000 kitty left over from their revelries celebrating the nation's 200th birthday party a decade ago.
The priorities may not seem entirely clear out on the shores of Lake Wobegon, but the administration's image-makers know where their best target audience is. It's not Lake Wobegon.
They're pulling the plug on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to the tune of $44 million in a proposed 1986 budget rescission and taking another $22 million from a program that develops U.S. public-broadcasting outlets.
But that's not the sound of silence you hear. They're adding $65 million, just about the same amount, to the Board for International Broadcasting to modernize its transmitters that send the true word behind the Iron Curtain.
Mayday! Mayday! This budget will sink a sharp harpoon in the fisherman.
First, for the little guy with a pole and a line and a worm, the administration proposes a $10 federal marine recreational fishing license. If that makes him want to go shoot ducks instead, that'll cost more, too. They're proposing to increase the cost of the federal duck stamp over five years.
Back out on the briny, the budget proposes an end to a $750,000 fund kept to compensate commercial fishermen whose gear is lost or damaged around offshore oil operations. Gone also will be another fund that pays for other fishing vessel and gear damage.
Remember that special little fund for the arts in the District of Columbia, slipped into the omnibus spending bill by Congress last December? It was for grants to such local artistic groups as the Arena Stage, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and others.
The White House remembered. Reagan plans to give the program the hook -- a proposed rescission of $1.9 million on the grounds that "a separate program for these organizations is not justified."
Last winter, Congress was unable to find money to renew the Superfund that pays for toxic-dump cleanup nationwide. But let the members find a threat to the environment under the Capitol dome, and see how fast the money flies.
The president's supplemental spending request proposes $8 million so the Capitol architect can begin a program to remove, dispose of and replace high-voltage electrical transformers containing cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) discovered last year.
From the No-Comment-Needed Dept.:
Everyone heard the president wax poetic in his State of the Union speech Tuesday about the economic recovery but, for some beleaguered folk, the budget says it's actually mourning in America.
The administration's supplemental appropriation request for this year says things are so bad that it needs $1.2 million "for 200 additional deputy clerk positions for three months to compensate for the projected increase in bankruptcy petition filings."