Bush Budget Cuts a Variety of Programs

For Immediate Release:

February 4, 2004

Contact:EDMUND L. ANDREWS

New York Times

ASHINGTON, Feb. 3 — The White House on Tuesday released a list of 128 government programs that it plans to cut back or eliminate, including money for drug treatment centers and secondary school counselors and modernization of the air traffic system.

The list highlights the effect of President Bush's budget on a variety of popular programs in education, health, housing and even law enforcement.

But the list also demonstrated how even seemingly tough surgery on federal spending programs would produce only a tiny reduction in the budget deficit.

The Bush plan would eliminate 65 programs and cut back 63 others, but the total savings for next year would add up to only $4.9 billion. By comparison, the White House is predicting that the federal deficit will hit $521 billion this year and $364 billion in 2005.

Administration officials defended the budget on Tuesday in hearings before the House Budget Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, arguing that the key to deficit reduction is faster economic growth and cutbacks in government spending.

Mr. Bush would increase military spending by 7 percent and domestic security by 10 percent but would limit growth in discretionary domestic programs to just one-half of 1 percent.

At the same time, he is pushing Congress to make permanent most of his tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, which with other proposed tax cuts would increase the federal deficit by an additional $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years.

"The president is committed to spending what is necessary to provide for our security and restraining spending elsewhere," Joshua B. Bolten, the White House budget director, told the budget committee.

But Democrats accused the administration of condoning huge deficits and glossing over the cost of Mr. Bush's plan to make his tax cuts permanent and extend scores of other expiring tax breaks at the cost of an additional $50 billion over the next 10 years.

"Every year of this administration, the bottom line of the budget has gotten worse and worse and worse," said Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Spratt attacked the administration as once again refusing to include in its initial budget plan the potential costs of keeping American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as counting on revenues from proposals that have been repeatedly defeated in Congress, like oil leasing fees from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition, Mr. Bush faces opposition to the spending restraints from lawmakers in his own party. On Tuesday, barely 24 hours after Mr. Bush unveiled his $2.4 trillion budget for next year, the administration threatened to veto a $311 billion transportation bill that the Republican-controlled Senate passed on Monday. The Senate bill would authorize $55 billion more for highways and mass transit over the next six years than Mr. Bush has proposed, and a bill in the Republican-controlled House would authorize nearly $100 billion more.

"There is one thing we can control, if we want to control it, and that is spending," said the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Jim Nussle, Republican of Iowa, who has criticized the huge transportation bill.

Though Mr. Bush has proposed big increases in spending on education for the No Child Left Behind initiative, the administration's list calls for eliminating or cutting back more than a dozen other education programs. Among other actions, it would eliminate $34 million spent to help pay for secondary school counselors; $30 million for a program in schools to combat alcohol abuse; $38 million for projects to provide employment services to people with disabilities; and $18 million for a national writing project.

The administration also called for reducing the Federal Aviation Administration's budget for modernization of the air traffic system by $393 million. The Internal Revenue Service, which is struggling to crack down on abusive tax shelters and outright cheating, would see its budget for modernization reduced from $388 million to $285 million.

Despite proposing a big increase in spending on domestic security, the administration is also proposing cuts in federal grants to local police, fire and emergency rescue departments. Money for so-called first responders would be cut from $4.4 billion this year to $3.5 billion next year.