Bush budget boosts education, defense but cuts EPA
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush sent his proposed budget for 2002 to Congress Monday, earmarking big increases in spending for education and defense but suggesting cuts in transportation, agriculture and environmental protection.
The four-inch-thick document sets the stage for a Washington battle royal over the president's proposed tax cuts and spending plans.
"This is a budget that protects taxpayers, protects children, protects our surplus, and represents compassionate conservatism," Bush told reporters as he convened a Cabinet meeting Monday morning.
The $1.96 trillion budget includes Bush's signature proposal, a $1.6 trillion cut in income taxes, and tries to hold federal spending to 4 percent growth. Education and medical research are among the president's priorities, and the document predicts a $231 billion surplus will remain.
"This budget funds our needs without the fat," Bush said. "It represents a new way of doing business in Washington and a new way of thinking. It puts the taxpayers first, and that is exactly where they belong."
By comparison, spending in this year's budget represented an 8.7 percent increase over 2000.
The Department of Education would get the biggest percentage boost of any agency -- 11.5 percent -- if Bush's budget makes it through Congress. The proposed $44.6 billion education budget would triple the money available for literacy programs and boost federal spending on elementary and secondary schools.
The Pentagon would receive the largest increase in raw dollars, with an additional $13.6 billion slated for a total defense budget of $310 billion. $1.4 billion of that would go toward pay increases and other measures to improve the quality of life for service members.
Bush also followed through on a campaign pledge by proposing a big increase for the National Institutes of Health, which will receive an additional $2.8 billion under Bush's plan.
Among the losers in Bush's proposal are the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The latter would lose $500 million under his budget -- a decrease of about 6.5 percent.
The Department of Agriculture would see a $1.5 billion cut, about 8 percent less than this year's level.
Although cuts in the Transportation Department are much larger in terms of dollars -- the agency would lose $2.1 billion under the Bush plan -- they make up a smaller percentage of the department's budget. Transportation officials say much of money in the current budget is for special projects and does not need to be included in the 2002 budget.
Democrats have argued that some vital programs are likely to suffer under the new Bush budget, in part to pay for Bush's tax cut plans. Some of the cuts in the Bush budget are made to rural health, disease prevention and mental health programs.
"When people see the budget, they're going to say, 'Oh, my God, I wanted a tax cut, but I didn't know what you were going to do to health care and to Medicare and national defense,'" Sen. John Breaux, D-Louisiana, told ABC on Sunday.
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill discounted those concerns Monday.
"We're trying to do the people's business, and what we have proposed in this budget is what the president and the rest of us believe is appropriate for the people," O'Neill said Monday.
"We don't look at this as satisfying a particular lobby or interest group, or even a political party. This is about trying to do the right thing for the people of the United States."
Bush spoke Monday only of programs he would boost, including an increase in funding for college Pell grants, $21 billion more for food safety programs and $67 million for a mentoring program for children whose parents are in prison.
He said he would increase funding for child abuse prevention programs by 67 percent and spend $87 million more for additional "front-line" prosecutors.
And, he said, he would spend more for a program that buys child safety locks for handguns.
Bush added, without elaboration, that his budget proposal also would combat excessive "corporate subsidies."
Clinton initiatives hit
Bush's budget proposes cuts in several Clinton administration initiatives, notably the Community Oriented Police Services program -- an effort to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets -- which would be cut by 17 percent to $855 million, a Justice Department official said on condition of anonymity. Some of that money would be redirected to putting officers in schools, the official said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the COPS program was supposed to last only three years. "The three-year commitment has been kept," he said.
"Programs never go away in Washington, which is one of the reasons government is so big," Fleischer said.
Other Clinton initiatives Bush would cut include efforts to combat nuclear proliferation, coordinate health care for the uninsured, promote energy conservation and boost economic development in poor communities, according to the Associated Press.
The appearance of the Bush budget proposal -- a bound document larger than a major metropolitan area's combined yellow and white pages -- is timed a bit oddly this year.
In most years, the president sends his budget proposal to Congress by mid- to late February, thereby launching the lengthy budgeting and appropriations process in the House and Senate.
But Bush has been in office less than 100 days, and his White House Office of Management and Budget has needed extra time to get up to speed on the intricacies and complexities of the full federal budgeting process.
Bush sent a "blueprint" budget to Congress in February, following his first joint address to both chambers of Congress. That document was only 207 pages in length and included little in the way of detail about where the administration planned to make its cuts.
As thin on detail as that blueprint was, the Republican-dominated House and Senate moved forward nonetheless through March and into this month to get the long march toward the creation of a final fiscal 2002 budget under way.
The House and Senate have already passed competing versions of their fiscal 2002 budget resolutions -- versions that will have to be reconciled in a House-Senate conference later this month, when members return from their two-week Easter recess.
The congressional budget resolution sets the stage for the 13 appropriations subcommittees in each chamber to determine the yearly funding levels for every federal department, agency and program. Those subcommittees produce individual spending bills that must wend their way through Congress before they are signed into law by the president, a process that should end -- theoretically -- by October 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Cheney: Excessive bills will be vetoed
Among the challenges for the House and Senate members appointed to the budget resolution conference will be to close the gap between the Senate's $1.2 trillion tax cut it approved last week and the $1.6 trillion cut desired by the House.
O'Neill said negotiations between House and Senate members could restore much of that.
"I would expect the final number to be close to, if not at, the president's proposed level," he said.
The House voted in March to approve a budget resolution that closely mirrors the president's priorities, including his long-held tax relief plans.
The budget submitted to Congress today by the administration is valued at some $1.96 trillion in yearly spending.
Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking Sunday, braced the administration for Democratic criticism, which will gain steam in two weeks when members of the congressional minority return to Washington following their recess.
The budget, Cheney said, redirects federal money to federal programs that exhibit palpable payoffs.
He warned that Bush would veto any appropriations bills he considers excessive.
CNN's Matt Smith and Ian Christopher McCaleb contributed to this report.
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