Clinton Announces $39 Billion Projected Budget Surplus
The president says postponing his China trip would 'be a mistake'
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 26) -- President Bill Clinton announced Tuesday new White House budget figures that project a surplus of $39 billion for fiscal year 1998, and a $150 billion surplus over the next five years.
"America can now turn off the deficit clock and plug in the surplus clock," Clinton said during a Rose Garden event to unveil the new Office of Management and Budget projections.
"Today our economy is the envy of the world," Clinton said. "But the progress was not predestined nor is its future guaranteed. We cannot abandon the strategy of fiscal discipline and investments in the future, which has brought us to this moment."
Instead, the president once again said any surplus should be used to save Social Security before considering other initiatives, like a tax cut.
The OMB's midsession review is slightly less optimistic than that of the Congressional Budget Office, which projected a surplus of between $43 billion and $63 billion.
The review also gives projected surpluses for the next five to 10 years, estimating a $150 billion surplus for the years 1998-2002. On that figure the CBO was more conservative, saying the projected surplus would be $73 billion over the next five years.
Presenting his office's report to the president, acting OMB director Jack Lew declared, "We now have a surplus to save."
The president said lawmakers must resist the temptation to "squander" that money. "In this election year, some now want to raid the surplus for initiatives instead of preserving every penny of the surplus until we strengthen Social Security," Clinton said.
"Let me clear: I will oppose any budget that fails to set aside the surpluses until we have strengthened Social Security for the 21st century."
While lawmakers initially embraced Clinton's call to reserve all surplus funds to save Social Security, several Republican leaders have recently backed off that stance and suggested the money go toward other programs or a tax cut.
Clinton said he does not rule out that possibility, but only after Social Security is made solvent. "That does not mean that in the future there could never be a tax cut," he said. "It simply means that we need to know how we're going to pay for the challenges of reforming Social Security."
Announcing the rosy economic forecast, the president took the opportunity to pat his administration on the back. "On the day I took office, the deficit was projected this year to be $350 billion," Clinton said. "How did this greatest projected deficit in history turn into the greatest projected surplus? The old fashioned way. We earned it."
Clinton shared the credit with Congress though, saying the surplus came with the "help of two visionary actions in Congress -- first, the courageous vote by the Democrats in 1993 in the midst of withering extreme criticism that led to a cut in the deficit of 90 percent, and then the truly historic bipartisan balanced budget agreement passed by Congress last year that finished the job."
Clinton: Postponing China trip would 'be a mistake'
Asked if he would heed calls from the GOP leadership to postpone his scheduled visit to China next month, Clinton said, "Well, I think it would be a mistake to postpone the trip to China."
Citing important policy areas the U.S. must work on with China, including missile technology, human and political rights and the nuclear test by India, Clinton said, "So I think we have a broad range of issues to deal with, and I think we have enough evidence now to justify the partnership that we've had. So, I believe we ought to go forward."
Some critics have called on Clinton to postpone the trip until the administration answers questions about granting a waiver that permitted Loral Space and Communications to export satellite technology to the Chinese.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.