Considering Capital Budgeting

More than nine months after its creation was promised to Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., to gain his pivotal vote against the balanced budget constitutional amendment, the Clinton administration's capital budgeting commission finally will get under way next month.

The commission will try to answer the age-old question of whether the federal government should, like state governments, wall off long-term investments from current expenditures.

With its members on board, the commission has scheduled its first meeting for Dec. 13, and is expected to report back to the National Economic Council within the year, administration officials said. The officials said it will then be up to the council to decide whether to take the issue further.

President Clinton signed the executive order creating the commission to gain Torricelli's opposition to the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Torricelli, an outspoken advocate of capital budgeting, was the decisive vote in killing the constitutional amendment last February. The capital budgeting issue was raised during the debate on the constitutional amendment, since the amendment did not call for establishment of a capital budget.

Administration officials said this week it had taken several months to line up members of the commission. It is to be chaired by former California state Treasurer Kathleen Brown and John Corzine, managing partner at Goldman Sachs - the Wall Street investment banking firm of which Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin was a co-chairman prior to joining the Clinton administration. Clinton made the final appointments to the capital budget commission last week. That group includes former CBO Director Rudolph Penner as well as Herbert Stein and Laura Tyson - both of whom formerly chaired the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

While the commission's plans are not clear, the group may hold a series of hearings across the nation to study capital budgeting, administration officials said.

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