- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

The Bush administration said the about 150 program cut s proposed in its 2006 budget are necessary to curtail a potential $512 billion deficit.

Joshua B. Bolten, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said spending cuts in nonsecurity programs will shrink the deficit to $427 billion if the president’s cuts are implemented.

“In order to sustain our economic expansion, we must exercise even greater spending restraint than in the past,” Mr. Bolten told reporters yesterday. “When the federal government focuses on its priorities and limits the resources it takes from the private sector, the result is a stronger, more productive economy. The president’s budget proposes that enhanced restraint.”

Identifying the programs is a guessing game for some because the White House has yet to produce an itemized list of the threatened programs, which has irked several members of Congress. A handful asked the administration for a list, but said they were rebuffed.

According to the budget proposal, the Education and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) departments are the heaviest hit, with programs earmarked for elimination or cutbacks.

Other complaints surfaced that Mr. Bush’s budget provides no information on the effect cuts will have towards savings in future years, making it tough for lawmakers to determine whether cuts are good.

“It is made much more difficult… there is no information on where it is going,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, calling it a “hide-and-seek budget.”

Some labeled the cuts as “Draconian” and an “affront to the American people.”

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said the budget is being hacked at the expense of the nation’s poor, yet still creates a deficit.

“Especially troubling are the $60 billion in cuts to nursing homes for the elderly under Medicaid, requirements for veterans to pay nearly two times as much for prescription drugs, and cuts to local law-enforcement and firefighters who are the first to be called in the event of a terrorist attack,” Mr. Moran said.

The administration wants to cut the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services program, designed to help localities hire more police officers, by 96 percent. The proposal also calls for a cut to the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, a program designed to provide loans and grant money to development projects, from $250 million last year to $8 million.

Mark Pinsky, president and chief executive of the National Community Capital Association and a Bush appointee, said there was no justification for it.

“This seems to be part of a deliberate ‘war of the crumbs’ strategy under which a variety of interests and groups would be set at each other’s throats to battle over an increasingly small amount of funds,” Mr. Pinsky said.

The CDFI was one of 18 block grants programs consolidated and moved out of HUD and placed under the Commerce Department.

Others said the nearly 6 percent cut in the Environmental Protection Agency’s personnel budget could hamper the agency’s ability to enforce standards.

House and Senate Republican leaders, although supportive of the budget, didn’t put their full faith behind Mr. Bush’s proposed cuts.

“The president’s proposed budget is a helpful starting point as Congress begins this debate and looks for real ways to rein in wasteful spending,” said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.

Some of Mr. Bush’s proposals, such as eliminating federal spending for Amtrak, have been proposed for the past three years, but were overlooked by Congress, which provided the funding to the financially strapped rail line.

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