Bush releases $1.96 trillion budget with a multitude of spending curbs

Monday, April 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush sent Congress on Monday the full details of his $1.96 trillion budget, promising to restrain what he considers the excessive growth of government spending by trimming a multitude of government programs, from energy conservation to putting police on the streets.

The nearly 5-inch-thick stack of blue budget books, which fleshes out the broad budget outline the president released in February, seeks to put the new administration's stamp on the federal government by rolling back many initiatives promoted by the Clinton administration.

All of the cuts make room for Bush's signature proposal, a $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax cut, while also using a projected $5.6 trillion surplus over the next decade to pay down a record amount of the national debt.

In his full budget, Bush re-estimated the cost of his campaign-promised tax cut at $1.49 trillion over 10 years, giving him room to add some new tax breaks to the package _ the biggest of which is a $52.9 billion program to provide up to $2,000 in tax credits to help low-income families pay for health insurance.

In all, the budget for the 2002 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would spend $1.96 trillion, a 5.6 percent increase over this year. It would hold the growth in discretionary spending _ everything but spending on mandatory benefit programs _ to a 4 percent increase, far below the 8.7 percent increase in budget authority that former President Clinton got for the current fiscal year.

``This budget offers a new vision of governing for our nation,'' Bush said in a message accompanying his budget.

Hoping to build momentum for that vision, Bush held an early morning meeting with his Cabinet where he proclaimed that his budget ``represents compassionate conservatism'' while setting priorities and going after wasteful government spending.

``Washington is known for its pork. This budget funds our needs without the fat,'' Bush said.

The budget, however, has already provoked howls of protests among various interest groups, and members of Congress from both parties are already vowing to protect their favorite programs. Democrats have contended the budget cuts are too severe because the president wanted to protect his massive tax cut.

Bush suffered his first major congressional defeat last week when the Senate voted to trim his $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax cut by one-fourth to make room for $200 billion in increased debt reduction and billions of dollars of higher spending than Bush is seeking in his budget.

However, the administration is warning that Bush will not hesitate to veto congressional spending bills that he believes are excessive.

Bush's budget pledges in its introduction to restrain ``recent explosive growth in discretionary spending'' by cutting ``unjustified programs, excessive programs, duplicative programs and programs that have completed their mission.''

To accomplish those goals, the administration is recommending a 17 percent cut in a key Clinton anti-crime program that aimed to put 100,000 new police officers on city streets. Part of the savings would be redirected to beefing up security at the nation's schools.

In an effort to attack corporate welfare, programs to support ship building, energy conservation at American companies and subsidies for American exports all would be trimmed under the Bush budget.

There were spending increases in the Bush budget to meet campaign promises and to support favored initiatives. Bush has made reforming education a key priority and his budget would boost discretionary spending at the Education Department by 11.5 percent, the biggest increase for any Cabinet agency.

Until Monday, Bush had been able to keep the spotlight on his proposed spending increases, which were included in the 207-page budget outline he released Feb. 28. But that document provided far fewer details on the spending cuts.

In all, the budget proposes outright cuts in 10 of the government's 25 major agencies. The biggest cuts would occur at the departments of agriculture and transportation.

In education, the administration approved significant increases in such areas as support for charter schools and helping states develop reading and math student assessment programs, fulfilling Bush campaign promises.

But many Clinton-era initiatives would be cut or scaled back.

These include programs to support for doctor training at children's hospitals, efforts to combat nuclear proliferation by assisting Russian nuclear scientists and tax credits to boost economic development in poor neighborhoods.

Bush budget writers said that in many cases the savings were being diverted to programs dealing with the same problems that the new administration believes will offer a greater payoff.

The administration's February spending blueprint served as the basis for debate on budget resolutions setting broad guidelines for spending and taxes that have been passed by both the House and Senate.

The House accepted the full $1.6 trillion Bush tax cut and his proposed spending caps, but last Friday the Senate passed a budget resolution that reduced the tax cut to $1.2 trillion and increased discretionary spending authority to nearly 8 percent, almost double the 4 percent proposed by Bush.

Last week's fight in the evenly divided Senate, where Vice President Dick Cheney had to be used for tie-breaking votes to protect the administration's budget outline, was likely to serve as a harbinger for the bitter battles to come.