- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 8, 2003


President Bush's proposed new round of tax cuts and the rest of his budget would produce unabated federal deficits over the coming decade totaling a massive $1.82 trillion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected yesterday.

The bleak forecast could heighten pressure on the Republican-led Congress to shrink the president's tax-cutting plans so lawmakers can produce a budget of their own that charts a course back to eventual balance.

Mr. Bush has proposed $1.57 trillion in fresh tax reductions through 2013 including a $726 billion economic package that has drawn opposition from nearly every congressional Democrat and some moderate Republicans.

The congressional analysts projected that under Mr. Bush's proposed tax and spending plans, there would be deficits of $287 billion this year and $338 billion in 2004. They would then begin a gradual decline to $102 billion by 2013.

The largest shortfall on record was $290 billion in 1992.

The budget office also said that without any of the tax and spending changes proposed by Mr. Bush, there would be deficits of $246 billion this year and $200 billion in 2004.

Those figures were about $50 billion worse for each year than forecasts the congressional office made in January, reflecting a continued weakening of federal revenue collections and higher spending that Congress has approved.

The new figures accentuated the ever-accelerating nose dive the government's finances have taken since just two years ago, when analysts envisioned a decade's worth of surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion.

When Mr. Bush released his $2.23 trillion budget for 2004 in February, he projected it would yield deficits totaling $1.08 trillion through 2008. Administration officials said his numbers only extended five years because longer projections tend to be wildly inaccurate, but Democrats said the White House was trying to avoid showing how bad the red ink would be in later years.

Democrats have blamed the revival of deficits after four years of surpluses under President Clinton on Mr. Bush's $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut that Congress approved in 2001.

Republicans blame the faltering economy and an expensive fight against terrorism, saying that dealing with both is more important than balancing the budget.

The White House and congressional Republicans also argue that the projected deficits are affordable because they are a small percentage of the country's $10.5 trillion economy.

The budget office's new estimates were released a week before the House and Senate budget committees plan to begin writing separate spending blueprints of their own for the coming year.

Yesterday's numbers amplified how hard it will be for lawmakers to craft budgets that reach balance within 10 years. House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, said yesterday that he will produce a plan that will show balance within 10 years, and his Senate counterpart, Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, has said he wants to do the same.

Democrats have said they want to produce budgets of their own that are more fiscally responsible than Mr. Bush's, with far smaller tax cuts and more spending for schools, domestic security and other programs.

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