- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

President Bush sent Congress a $2.13 trillion budget today that would provide billions of dollars in new spending for the war on terrorism and homeland security while squeezing money from scores of other programs such as highway and environmental projects.
After four years of surpluses, Mr. Bush's budget projects the government will go in the red through 2004, including a $106 billion deficit this year.
The $2.13 trillion spending proposal for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 reflects a 3.7 percent increase from this year.
But that overall amount masks wide differences, with favored programs slated to receive huge increases while scores of agencies would be subjected to big cuts.
Mr. Bush, visiting Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, said he was asking for the biggest increase in Pentagon spending in a generation to finance the battle against terrorism.
"We're unified in Washington on winning this war," he told cheering troops. "One way to express our unity is for Congress to set the military budget, the defense of the United States, as the No. 1 priority and fully fund my request."
The spending blueprint is the opening act in what will be months of wrangling in Congress. The massive five-inch high stack of budget books had barely reached congressional desks before Democrats started complaining.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., likened the administration's budget accounting to tactics employed by the bankrupt Enron Corp.
"Enron got into trouble because they didn't fully disclose debt they have and that is precisely what the federal government is doing," Mr. Conrad said. He contended the administration would raid Social Security and Medicare surpluses to cover shortfalls in the rest of government.
"The president funds large new tax cuts by tapping Social Security," said Thomas Kahn, Democratic staff director for the GOP-led House Budget Committee. "Over 10 years, we are depleting $1.5 trillion of the Social Security trust fund."
In the most dramatic indication of how much the budget landscape has been altered in a year's time, Mr. Bush projects that surpluses over the next 10 years will total just $1 trillion down from the $5.6 trillion that he estimated just a year ago.
While Mr. Bush blamed much of the erosion on the country's first recession in a decade and the costs of waging a war against terrorism, Democrats pointed to Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut. They said the administration, to protect those tax cuts, was seeking unnecessarily severe budget cuts across a wide swath of government programs.
The president's spending plan for the next fiscal year came wrapped in a red-white-and-blue cover depicting the American flag and for the first time ever featured color photos of everything from military jets to ordinary Americans in an effort to bring the mind-numbing parade of budget charts to life.
Defense would get a $48 billion boost in its spending and ability to award contracts, the biggest increase in two decades. Spending to make Americans more secure at home would nearly double to $37.7 billion.
To make room for those big gains, scores of other programs from highway spending to environmental projects, would be cut.
The president, in a message accompanying the budget, said his administration was prepared to do whatever it took to win the war against terrorism.
"My budget provides the resources to combat terrorism at home, to protect our people and preserve our constitutional freedoms," Mr. Bush said.
He pledged to wage a "bold agenda for government reform" that would eliminate wasteful spending by using for the first time a formal performance rating that determined which government programs were failing to do their job effectively.
Mr. Bush's proposed cuts include a $9 billion reduction in highway spending, reductions in water projects by the Army Corps of Engineers and elimination of hundreds of education and health projects that lawmakers had won congressional approval for last year for their home districts.
Critics contended Mr. Bush was wielding the budget knife to protect his most prized economic achievement: last year's passage of a massive $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut.
In his new budget, the president proposes spending $344 billion to make that cut, which is due to expire after 2010, last for two more years.

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