- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

President Bush tried to keep down the deficit for fiscal 2003 in the budget he submitted to Congress yesterday by cutting some discretionary spending programs on the domestic side, prompting criticism from those whose favored programs were on the chopping block.
In his message accompanying the budget, the president said programs that are not succeeding "should be reinvented, redirected or retired."
But Democrats said when homeland security and defense are removed, the budget actually represents a decrease of $16 billion, compared with current service levels.
The biggest point of criticism yesterday was the president's transportation proposal, which included an $8.5 billion drop in Federal Highway Administration funds for road building compared with fiscal 2002.
"Those funds are being relied on in the planning by the states," said Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "They were counting on being able to go forward with projects, many of which have already been bid. So clearly that's an area of spending cut that's going to be a special problem."
He and other Democrats said those funds also mean jobs 42,000 for every $1 billion in spending.
But Steve Hansen, a spokesman for House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young, Alaska Republican, blamed the cut on the law and not on the president.
"This is not a Bush administration cut; they followed the formula Congress created" in 1998 legislation, he said. "Chairman Young is hopeful he can work with the administration to get the funding level back up to at least the fiscal year 2002 level."
The formula sets allocations based on gas-tax receipts, and the funding drop is the result of worse-than-predicted receipts.
In terms of federal departments and agencies, Justice, Labor, the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency lost funding compared with last year.
The EPA's budget would be cut from $8 billion to $7.7 billion, with the cuts coming mainly from clean water programs. EPA administrator Christie Whitman said many of those water projects were inserted by lawmakers in past budgets and that the agency didn't see some of them as priorities.
She promised no decrease in EPA's enforcement of environmental laws and regulations but the budget prompted an outcry from environmentalists.
"The White House is using Enron accounting to hide assaults on clean water, clean air and conservation programs," said Sara Zdeb, the organization's legislative representative.
Among other changes:
The Corps of Engineers' budget would be cut 10 percent, or about $500 million, with the administration reducing funding for new-project starts. The administration argues that so many new projects have been added in the past few years that a $21 billion backlog is on the books. The administration is proposing a moratorium on starting construction of new projects.
The Labor Department's budget would be cut by about $900 million, or 7 percent, with several job training programs eliminated.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's overall budget increases, but the president proposes spending $600 million less than last year on manned spaceflight including $230 million less on the International Space Station.
Even though the military fared well overall, it didn't entirely escape Mr. Bush's red pen. He proposed cutting spending on new military construction from $6.5 billion to $4.8 billion.

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