President Reagan will submit a final budget Monday that largely suits George Bush's priorities but still leaves the president-elect room to put his own stamp on the government.
In his weekly radio talk Saturday, Reagan emphasized budget themes that coincide with those that Bush struck in the campaign."It's a responsible plan," Reagan said, "which cuts the deficit without touching Social Security, weakening defense or reducing benefits to the needy. And the best news is that this budget proves it can be done without raising your taxes."
Earlier, the president's budget director, Joseph R. Wright Jr., said the proposal "gives George Bush a good vehicle to negotiate from" when Bush deals with a Democratic-controlled Congress. Many members suspect that he will have to give in to tax increases to reduce the budget deficit and meet his other priorities.
"It's a darn good strategic budget for Ronald Reagan going out and George Bush coming in," Wright said. He added that the president said he "wanted a reasonable, responsible budget."
The $1.15 trillion budget calls for added spending for the military, AIDS research and more air traffic controllers and for cuts in the nation's outlay for farm supports and Medicare payments to doctors.
An administration official disclosed Saturday that to get the deficit down, the president is making his biggest demands on the Department of Agriculture. He asks to cut spending by $9.3 billion from this year's estimated level of $51.8 billion. The president leaves it to his successor to work out how to make one big cut in the farm budget, from the present $14 billion to $11.5 billion in price and income supports for growers of major crops.
Another important target is Medicare and Medicaid, for which spending has been climbing faster than elsewhere in the budget. Bush's advisers have indicated a desire to impose some constraint.
Budget officials said Reagan proposed to chop about $7 billion in projected increases, largely by cutting government reimbursement of physicians' fees rather than cutting benefits. Even after holding down the projected increase in the programs, the president said Saturday, the spending next year would be $10 billion more next year than this year.
Reagan's proposal gives Bush a firm foundation to start writing his own budgets because the two men agree on the spending and revenue features that take up the biggest parts of the budget, like Social Security, the provision of a "safety net" for the poor, whom to tax and how much to tax them.
Differences arise on the margin. Bush has indicated a desire to expand spending for some social programs, for example, and to make cuts in one of the big-spending areas, the military, although both men agree on the maintenance of a large military budget.
Reagan was free this year to submit an abbreviated, perfunctory budget, Wright said. But with Bush's election, the president and the vice president agreed that Reagan would submit a regular, full-fledged proposal, incorporating the usual stacks of tables analyses, on the assumption that Bush would find most of it acceptable and would have something to work with where he wanted to make changes.
Officials report that Richard G. Darman, who will be Bush's budget director, has been receiving regular private briefings from Wright and the deputy budget director, John F. Cogan. They said that Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady and a top aide, Charles H. Dallara, who are staying on with Bush, participated in the top-level meetings at which the budget was written.
As expected, Reagan will seek roughly a 6 percent increase in military spending - 4 percent to accommodate rising prices and 2 percent in actual increases. Bush associates have said that they can live without the 2 percent.
Reagan would also spend $5 billion a year for five years to bail out depositors of the nation's ailing savings and loan institutions, and $900 million next year to start cleaning up and rebuilding the government's aged nuclear weapons plants.
Analysts consider both amounts small in relation to the size of the problems. Their estimates of the cost of salvaging the savings institutions range above $100 billion, and the Energy Department has said the weapon plants could require as much as $138 billion over 20 years.
Democrats are cool to the plans. "You've got a political problem here," said Rep. Leon E. Panetta, D-Calif. "How do you move the president-elect from his campaign positions to the realities of the budget?"