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Bush budget shows record deficit, billions in tax cuts

Calls for more money for NASA

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

President Bush's proposed budget includes a 7.6 percent boost for non-defense-related homeland security.
President Bush's proposed budget includes a 7.6 percent boost for non-defense-related homeland security.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vowing to be a good steward of the public's money, President Bush sent to Capitol Hill Monday a $2.2 trillion 2004 budget that calls for hundreds of billions in tax cuts and shows a record federal deficit of $304 billion.

"The budget keeps the fundamental commitments of our government, including our commitments to be good stewards with taxpayers' money," Bush said. "I proposed that discretionary federal spending increase by no more than 4 percent of this year. That's about as much as family income is expected to grow; seems like a reasonable benchmark for federal budget. "

The proposed budget, however, drew immediate fire from Democrats, who criticized the plan for its red-ink spending and its tax cuts.

"I think this budget is breathtaking in its lack of fiscal responsibility," said Sen. Kent Conrad, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. "This president's plan is plunging us deep into deficit, deep into debt."

One item that is drawing particular attention in light of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia is Bush's proposed budget for NASA. Bush wants an increase of roughly $500 million for the agency to $15.47 billion.

The most generous boost is for non-defense-related homeland security, which the White House proposes should increase 7.6 percent, or $2.5 billion, to $41 billion.

The proposed military spending increase is 4.2 percent, or a $15 billion boost to $380 billion. But the budget does not provide any funding for a potential war with Iraq, which has been estimated at $60 billion or higher.

Copies of the administration's proposed 2004 budget were handed out on Capitol Hill.
Copies of the administration's proposed 2004 budget were handed out on Capitol Hill.

On the domestic front, Bush is proposing $400 billion for Medicare reform and adding prescription drug coverage.

Details of that plan have not yet been released, as key congressional Republicans as well as Democrats have been critical of reported plans to offer prescription drug coverage only to seniors who switch from traditional Medicare to private health plans.

The White House budget includes $53.1 billion for education funding, a $2.8 billion increase from 2003.

Congressional Democrats, like Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, have been highly critical of Bush for not adequately funding a bipartisan education reform bill, the No Child Left Behind Act, he signed into law last year, even refusing to attend a White House event last month to mark the year anniversary of the new law.

The space shuttle program, according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, will also have a boost in funding this year from $3.2 billion in 2003 to $3.9 billion in 2004.

The budget includes the president's $674 billion 10-year plan intended to boost the sluggish economy,

The White House notes that although the deficit will be over $304 billion in 2004, that is the projected peak. It is expected to shrink to $1.9 billion by 2008.

"The deficits were caused as a result of a recession which began in early 2000. The deficits were caused by the attack on our country on September 11," said Fleischer.

Conrad, D-North Dakota, was harsh in his assessment of the Bush budget. "Instead of offering the nation a plan for long-term economic prosperity, the Bush budget burdens us, and our children, with trillions of dollars of new debt," he said. "His plan will push up interest rates, retard economic growth, and create massive problems for the soon-to-be retiring baby boom generation."

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