$1.9 Trillion Surplus Predicted

Monday, June 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Clinton was announcing Monday that the federal government expects to take in $1.9 trillion more than it will spend over the next 10 years.

``It has grown beyond the conservative estimates that we used,'' White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

Just four months ago the projected budget surplus for the period was put at $746 billion. The higher figure is what private analysts have been predicting for weeks, thanks to a record economic boom that has produced massive amounts of new income to tax.

The White House announcement was part of the administration's budget recalculation sent to Congress as legislators work through government spending bills for the fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1.

The higher figure probably will intensify the political battles over how to use the projected surplus.

Lockhart said the White House will offer a new timeline for paying down the national debt, and hinted that Clinton will try to use the new numbers as leverage in negotiations with congressional Republicans over spending priorities.

``I expect him to be talking to the Republican leadership today and I think after today's announcement we're hoping to move forward on a number of fronts with the Republican leadership,'' Lockhart said.

John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said: ``These numbers are the result of the fiscal responsibility of the Republican Congress, and it would be a mistake to throw that responsibility overboard by an aggressive new spending plan.''

Clinton tipped his hand about the size of the projected surplus last week, referring to estimates of $1.9 trillion to nearly $2 trillion. And in his weekly radio address Saturday, he raised the size of the prescription drug coverage for older Americans that he proposes to finance from the surplus.

Vice President Al Gore wants a $500 billion tax cut and more spending for Social Security, health, schools and the environment.

George W. Bush, the presumed Republican nominee for president, wants to use $1.3 trillion of the surplus for a tax cut and more of it for debt reduction and shoring up Social Security.

Clinton cautions regularly that that the record surpluses are only projections — not guaranteed dollars. Over the weekend, he criticized Republicans for spending money they may never have and pointed to Gore as the more fiscally responsible steward of the surplus.

Clinton wants to use a large portion of the surplus to accelerate wiping out the $3.5 trillion publicly held share of the nation debt. He proposed in January that the debt be eliminated by 2013; the higher surplus likely will mean that date will be moved into the current decade.