'Blue Dog' Budget Coming

Within the next few weeks, the conservative Democrats who make up The Coalition will fire the first salvo in the budget war, releasing a spending blueprint that includes no tax cut and retains the group's proposal to cut the consumer price index by 0.5 percent, a key member of the so-called Blue Dog Democrats said Tuesday.

The FY98 budget proposal will "look very much like" the FY97 plan submitted by the group, Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., a co-chairman of The Coalition, told CongressDaily. Condit said the group is waiting for an updated CBO baseline before putting the finishing touches on the proposal.

Another member of the group, Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, in December had said the Blue Dogs planned to release their budget before the president releases his plan next month. Condit said The Coalition still hopes to meet that deadline, adding, "We think we'll be out there before anyone else." Condit said the group decided to maintain the 0.5 percent cut in the CPI, even though a commission recently reported the price index is overstated by much more than that. Condit said many House members are not even willing to consider the 0.5 percent CPI cut proposed by The Coalition last year.

"We're open to discuss [a bigger cut], but nobody's willing to discuss the adjustment we made," Condit said. "It would be futile to go beyond that."

In addition, Condit said the fact that the Blue Dogs will not propose a tax cut as part of their budget does not mean the group opposes a tax cut. Instead, members of The Coalition believe a tax cut should be considered as part of a comprehensive tax reform plan.

The Coalition also is working with a group of Republicans on a list of corporate welfare programs that could be cut as part of the budget or through separate legislation. "We don't know how that's going to shape up yet," Condit said. In a related development, Condit and Rep. Kay Granger, R- Texas, Tuesday introduced legislation that would require the president to submit a balanced budget plan each year.

The legislation would require President Clinton to submit an FY98 blueprint that achieves balance by 2002. In future years, the bill would require presidents to submit budgets that would maintain balance for five years.

If the CBO decided that the budget would not balance, the president would be required to submit a revised blueprint.

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