- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2001

President Bush yesterday released his proposed $1.96 trillion budget for fiscal 2002 that increases overall discretionary spending by 4 percent, but calls for cuts in agriculture, transportation and other programs.
"The budget puts the taxpayers first, and that's exactly where they belong," Mr. Bush told reporters as he met his Cabinet at the White House. "This budget funds our needs without the fat."
The administration's plan, as promised, includes substantial increases for defense, education and health research. But Democrats immediately charged that the budget neglects the environment, health care, prescription drugs and child care programs to make room for Mr. Bush's proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut.
"The president has produced a more detailed budget that makes clear he leaves no room for essential national needs and wants to cut scores of services and programs vital to the well-being of millions of families to pay for his tax cut," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat.
The proposals were "rich in ideology and short on balance, fiscal discipline and common-sense responsibility," Mr. Gephardt said.
House Republicans disputed such characterizations, pointing out the proposed spending increases.
"The president has laid out a fair and responsible budget. It proves we can make important investments in education, defense and health care and return at least $1.6 trillion back to the taxpayers who created the surplus," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "It's not only fair, it's the right thing to do."
Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican, said the Democratic complaints were proof that they "had become addicted to the dramatic spending increases President Clinton extorted from Congress over the past three years."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said the budget was not "dead on arrival, it was dead before arrival."
Mr. Daschle said the Senate last week rejected much of Mr. Bush's plan, voting to reduce his tax cut to $1.2 trillion over 10 years and to increase spending for a prescription drug benefit under Medicare by $150 billion more than envisioned by the White House.
The Senate also voted extra money for agriculture, veterans benefits, defense and special education.
Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, was optimistic about the budget's chances.
"The president's budget is alive and well, two-thirds of the way through the process to what we think is a successful completion," he said.
Mr. Bush had released in February a budget outline touting spending increases for defense, education and other programs, and the House earlier this month passed a resolution following that plan.
But until yesterday scant information has been revealed about the cuts Mr. Bush is proposing to keep discretionary spending growth to 4 percent.
Defense spending in 2002 would be $310.5 billion, a 4.7 percent increase over fiscal 2001, and further increases may grow out of a strategic review that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is conducting.
The next-largest budget increases would go to the Department of Education, which would see an 11.5 percent increase to $44.5 billion, the Department of Health and Human Services (up 5 percent to $56.7 billion), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which would see a 7 percent increase to $30.4 billion.
But seven Cabinet-level agencies, including Transportation, Justice, Interior and Energy, would see budget cuts of 5 percent to 13 percent.
Individual programs in those and other departments would see even sharper reductions.
The Department of Energy's research programs on energy efficiency would be cut 30 percent and its renewable energy program would be cut by 40 percent.
"With soaring energy prices and an energy crisis that is likely to affect a broader segment of the country this spring and summer, the Bush budget is patently irresponsible," said Susanna Drayne, coordinator of the Sustainable Energy Coalition.
Also cut is the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). Mr. Bush's budget includes no money for new hires, but about $228 million was allotted for redeploying desk officers back to the streets.
"It's a classic example of when Washington says we're going to fund something for one or two or three years, it's funded forever," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Programs never go away in Washington, and that's one of the reasons the government is so big."
Overall, funding for community policing programs would be cut 17 percent, to $855 million from $1.03 billion this year.
Despite the spending increases, Democrats said Mr. Bush's education budget shortchanges students.
The proposed budget is the largest for any domestic department and calls for an 11.5 percent increase over fiscal 2002, providing an additional $4.6 billion for fiscal year 2002.
At the program level, the president calls for a 5.9 percent increase in funding or $2.5 billion, Education Department officials said.
But Democrats contend that the bulk of that money was requested by Mr. Clinton and appropriated in advance last year.
Still, Mr. Bush's education budget increases funding for disadvantaged students and provides new money for annual testing of students in reading and math.
Specifics include $1 billion more for special-education grants to help students with disabilities, $1 billion more for Pell Grants to help low-income students pay for higher education, and $375 million earmarked for state grants to improve teacher quality.
The president also asks for $175 million for a new Charter School Homestead Fund to help expand parental-choice options.
The president's budget request consolidates existing education programs to reduce regulatory burdens while giving states and school districts flexibility to use federal funds to address education priorities, Education Secretary Rod Paige said.
The president also has directed the Education Department to strengthen financial management to address audit deficiencies arising since 1995, modernize student aid delivery and management, and reduce student loan default costs to taxpayers."
Andrea Billups contributed to this report.

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