- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Budget week kicked off in the Senate yesterday with a Democrat-crafted resolution calling for a balanced budget by 2012 without raising taxes.

“We’ve seen enough red ink with the six record-setting deficits that the president has put forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “We’re going to move forward on having all tax-cutting measures that cannot be paid for, be paid for.”

Republicans said the resolution, drafted by Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, ignores long-term costs and would lead to the biggest tax increase in history.

“Nothing could be more foreign to Republican principles” than this resolution, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The budget debate is expected to continue on the Senate floor through late Friday.

Mr. Conrad’s resolution promises to turn a projected $249 billion budget deficit next year into a $132 billion surplus in 2012.

The legislation increases spending in three key areas: children’s health care, education and transportation programs.

The resolution would reverse President Bush’s proposed cuts or increase spending for law enforcement, heating assistance, community development, transportation and military veterans, among other areas.

The legislation also promises to close tax loopholes and shut down tax shelters, and to cap for two years the number of Americans who pay the alternative minimum tax.

“This provides a fiscally responsible budget plan for our country,” Mr. Conrad said. “While no single budget resolution can solve all of our budget challenges, this plan will begin to put the nation back on a more sound fiscal path.”

The Senate budget allocation to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mirrors Mr. Bush’s request for $145 billion.

Budget spending will be subject to a “pay-as-you-go” plan in which cuts are offset with money elsewhere.

Republicans say that plan ultimately will lead to new taxes and the repeal of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts.

Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the Budget Committee’s top Republican, said the bill would raise taxes by $900 billion, with the middle class bearing the brunt of the tax-paying responsibility.

“I am disappointed that the majority party has presented a budget that contains significant new spending, significant new taxes, significant new debt and absolutely no attempt to address the long-term problems we face,” Mr. Gregg said. “I look forward to working with the majority to make some much-needed adjustments to their proposal.”

Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, said the resolution would take the nation’s economy and government a “huge step backward.”

“As we begin to debate the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, we shouldn’t begin with a plan to grow an even more massive bureaucracy on the backs of the American taxpayer,” Mr. Price said.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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