President Bill Clinton -- Jan. 28, 1997
CLINTON: Good afternoon.
Before I take your questions, I would like to make a brief statement about the balanced budget that I will send to Congress next week.
This budget shows that wu can meet two of our most crucial national priorities at the same time. It proves we can protect our children from a future burdened by reckless debt even as we give them the educational opportunities they need to make the most of the 21st century.
The budget finally moves us beyond the false choices that have held us back for too long, and shows that we can cut our debt and invest in our children.
The budget will help to renew our public schools. It will expand Head Start, help rebuild crumbling classrooms. It will double funding for public charter schools, giving parents more choice in how they educate their children.
It will increase funding for Goals 2000 by 26 percent.
And it will help our students to reach high standards and master the basics of reading, writing, math and science.
It will also enable us to protect -- excuse me -- to connect our schools and our libraries to the information superhighway. The budget more than doubles our investment in technology to hook our children up to computers and the Internet. And it increases by a third our investment in partnerships with teachers and industries to develop quality educational programming and technology.
In short, the budget will connect our children to the best educational technology in the world.
It will also open the doors of college education wider than ever before. I'd like to take a minute now simply to outline our unprecedented commitment to higher education.
With this budget, national support for college education in the year 2002 will be more than double what it was on the day I first took office -- going from $24 billion to $58 billion a year.
The budget will fully pay for a $1,500 a year tuition tax credit, a HOPE scholarship for the first two years of college, to make the typical community college affordable for every American, and to achieve our goal of making two years of college education as universal as a high school diploma is today.
It will also allow a working family to deduct up to $10,000 a year for taxes for the cost of any college tuition or job training. And with our special IRA for education, most parents will be able to save for college tuition without ever paying a penny in taxes.
In addition, my balanced budget takes further steps to widen the circle of educational opportunity. It provides a 25 percent increase in funding for Pell grants, the largest increase in the maximum scholarship in 20 years, so that over four million students will get up to $3,000 a year.
We'll make 130,000 more students eligible for these scholarships. And we will open the scholarships to 218,000 older, low-income Americans who want to go to college.
Second, under the balanced budget we will present, we will continue to reform our student loan programs to make college loans easier for students to get and easier to pay back.
We will cut interest rates on loans to students while they're in school. We will cut loan fees for four million low and middle-income students in half.
Fees on two-and-half million more will be cut by 25 percent. Taken together, these two steps will save American families $2.6 billion over five years.
Third, we will increase funding again for work study positions for students. That will take us over about a three-year period from 700,000 work-study positions to one million work-study positions per year.
And it will help us to meet our goal of getting a $100,000 of those work-study students to participate as tutors in our initiative to make sure that all of our eight-year-olds can read independently.
To encourage community service, we will also provide tax- incentives to encourage loan forgiveness for students who, after college choose professions that give something back -- people who use their education to work as teachers in homeless shelters, as doctors in remote rural areas.
Altogether, these proposals will move us much closer to our clear national goal -- an America where every eight-year-old can read, where every 12-year-old can log on to the Internet, where every 18-year-old can go to college, where all Americans will have the knowledge they need to meet the challenges of the 21st century. I am very proud of this budget.
Finally, let me say a word about campaign finance reform. We all know we need to find a new way to finance our campaigns and to bring the aggregate spending levels under control.
Anyone who is involved in politics must accept responsibility for this problem and take responsibility to repair it. That is true for me and true for others as well.
Last week I met with Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold and Representatives Chris Shays and Marty Meehan. They have introduced tough, balanced, credible bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation. I pledged my support to them. I pledge it again today. I pledge again to help them pass this legislation.
Any legislation we pass should be bipartisan, should limit spending and should leave the playing field level between parties and between incumbents and challengers.
This is our best chance in a generation to give the American people campaigns that are worthy of the world's oldest continuous democracy. I call on the members of both parties to work with us to get the job done. Helen.
QUESTION: What should the American people think of a presidential campaign in which a day at the White House is sold for $250,000 a couple and the Republican Party sells a season ticket of access to Capitol Hill for $250,000?
CLINTON: Well, first let me say I dispute a little bit the characterization there. I can't speak for the Republicans. They'll have to speak for themselves. But the people who were there on the day in question were not charged a fee. Some of them were our contributors; had contributed in the past -- they had raised money for me in the past. Some of them had not.
And so I don't think it's quite an accurate characterization.
But I will say this, if you look at the money that was raised and spent -- not only by the parties and their respective campaign committees in the Senate and House, but also by all these independent and apparently independent third-party committees -- and you look at the exponential cost of the campaigns that are related to communications, surely we can use this opportunity to make something positive come out of this.
I mean, I think that all of us, as I said again, I'm -- every one of us who has participated in this system, even if we did it because we thought we had to do it to survive or to just keep up, has to take some responsibility for its excesses. And I take mine.
But we have got to do something about it. And the only way we can do anything about it is, is to pass the legislation, the McCain- Feingold Bill or some acceptable variation thereof.
QUESTION: Mr. President, with all the focus on the Democratic fund-raising right now, why are you attending a million-dollar fund- raiser tonight? What kind of -- what kind of an image do you think this leaves? And why do these donors make these big-money contributions? What do they get in return?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, under all conceivable campaign finance reform scenarios, it will still be necessary for the parties to raise some money. And there is -- neither party has the capacity to raise all their money from direct-mail campaigns and contributions of $100 or less.
The Business Council, the group that is having this fund-raiser tonight, is one that would be quite consistent with the McCain- Feingold Bill, were it to pass.
And I frankly am very appreciative of the fact that these folks have been willing to come and help us, and that we have increased the ranks of, particularly, younger, more entrepreneurial people in the Democratic Party supporting us.
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