WASHINGTON-Some spokesmen for the rubber industry are more concerned than others over President Clinton's plan to drastically reorganize five government agencies, including the Department of Transportation (DOT). While some predict a more efficient and reasonable DOT, others fear the auto industry and its suppliers could end up paying more than their fair share of the Clinton administration's planned tax cut for the middle class.
Mr. Clinton announced his proposals Dec. 19 as part of a $24 billion cut in government spending to pave the way for a projected $60 billion tax cut.
Details of the President's plan must still be worked out. But the idea is to cut $6.7 billion from DOT; $10.6 billion from the Department of Energy; $1.4 billion from the General Services Administration; $800 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development; $30 million from the Office of Personnel Management; and $4.5 billion from sources yet to be determined.
Under the DOT proposal, the department would be nearly halved, from 104,000 to 54,000 employees. The 10 agencies in DOT-including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration-would be consolidated into three.
Most of the personnel reduction, noted Transportation Secretary Federico Pe¤a, would be accomplished by transferring 40,000 air traffic control employees out of government and into a semi-private, self-supporting corporation.
The GSA, for example, would streamline by creating spinoff corporations for peripheral functions or selling operations to the private sector. The Energy Department has not determined what to cut.
Dr. Ricardo Martinez, head of NHTSA, said his agency will change by forming project teams of engineers, researchers, lawyers and analysts to tackle new projects, such as safety standards.
While the rubber industry awaits the final details of the DOT streamlining plan, it almost certainly won't seriously affect tire makers, according to Peter J. Pantuso, vice president of public affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
``I can't imagine there'd be any lessening of safety standards,'' he said. ``We'll probably end up with a more efficient and value-oriented DOT, more friendly and reasonable to work with....''
Roy E. Littlefield III, government relations director for the American Retreaders' Association, was more apprehensive. ``...I think the strong message is we've got to stick together,'' he said, ``or we'll end up getting soaked with the middle-class tax cut.''