White House Watch: $31 Billion Stimulus Expected

President Clinton's top economic aides have told lawmakers that he will soon propose a $31 billion short-term economic stimulus package, a Democratic source said today.

According to the official, $16 billion would be directed to public-works projects, waste-water treatment plants, summer jobs, the Head Start Program and the childhood-immunization program.

The rest of the package will be $15 billion worth of investment-tax credits, a tax break given businesses that invest in equipment.

-- Agencies get little time to appeal budget. President Clinton is giving agency heads a few days to propose changes in the budget he will release March 23 - but only as long as they don't try to tamper with the bottom line.

An Office of Management and Budget memorandum states that Clinton plans to release his budget for fiscal 1994 on March 23.

The letter lays out a rushed timetable in which Clinton will tell agencies what policies he has decided upon this Thursday. Then, agency chiefs will be allowed until Monday to file appeals, which will be resolved by Thursday, Feb. 11.

Many of the nation's governors, meeting with Clinton yesterday and today, said they would help him sell his budget plan. Clinton earlier yesterday ordered the health department to allow states more freedom in handling Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for the poor and disabled.

-- Lobbyists work Democratic job fair. The Democratic National Committee has invited lobbyists, special interests, unions and corporations to its job fair today for now-unemployed Clinton campaign workers. Among the nearly 100 organizations scheduled to recruit are Dorf & Stanton, a lobbying firm whose clients include drug giant CIBA-GEIGY; the American Medical Association; unions, including the AFL-CIO and American Federation of Teachers, and such corporations as MCI Telecommunications, NBC and CBS.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Simon Rosenberg downplayed any potential - perceived or real - conflicts of interest in the national party's invitation to these groups. "All we're trying to do is help the people who helped us."

Though most lobbyists were guarded, an AMA spokesman was more direct, saying: "We're in the process of hiring two lobbyists and this is an excellent opportunity to find some experienced people who could have good contacts."

-- The all new White House. Cigarette butts are out and broccoli is in at the Clinton White House. Hillary Rodham Clinton said in The New York Times today that smoking has been banned entirely from the White House, just as it was at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock, Ark. Since 1991, smoking had been banned in the White House kitchen, locker rooms and maintenance areas.

As for the menu, the Bush-instituted broccoli ban is history. "We are big broccoli eaters," Mrs. Clinton said. "We do a lot of vegetables and a lot fiber and a lot of fruit."

She said she and President Clinton also want to encourage people to feel more a part of government by occasionally opening the White House to the public. Some possibilities: more open houses like the one held the day after the inauguration; meetings to which ordinary Americans would be invited; events involving children and families.

"It's mathematically impossible to redeem all the campaign promises. The question is which ones can and should be redeemed and which ones can be swallowed."

- Unidentified aide to President Clinton, quoted in today's Wall Street Journal, discussing the choices between increasing middle-class taxes or continuing to run a high deficit.