President Clinton today released a $1.7 trillion spending plan for fiscal 1998 that he says will eventually provide $98 billion in tax cuts, $51 billion in education investments and funding for a host of other new federal initiatives. Nevertheless, the White House says, spending cuts proposed by the President will bring the federal budget into balance, and actually produce a $17 billion surplus by 2002.
At a press briefing this morning, administration officials contended that the only way to meet all of these goals is to step up the pace of their efforts to improve the performance of federal agencies.
"We all know that the government of yesterday can't meet the challenges of tomorrow," said Vice President Al Gore. "We know that in order to reach balance, we have to reinvent government."
Key Republicans weren't impressed with the administration's logic. "The President of the United States, while declaring the era of big government at an end, every day comes up with another program to expand government," said House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, in an interview on CNN.
"This is not the bold step we were looking for," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
The budget includes $388 billion in savings by 2002, but also includes a controversial trigger mechanism that would phase out tax cuts and institute additional spending increases if Office of Management and Budget projections are not met in 2001 and 2002 and Congress and the Administration cannot agree on additional savings. The majority of the spending cuts would not occur until after Clinton leaves office in 2000.
Among the programs slated for cuts, Medicare takes the biggest hit, with $100 billion in spending reductions over five years.
The administration is seeking a slight decrease in Defense spending next year, to $259.4 billion--far less than GOP leaders have said they want.
On the domestic side, many agencies will actually see modest budgetary increases next year. And some will get significant budget boosts. The budget seeks a $15 billion increase in spending on education and training programs. And in two moves certain to raise the ire of GOP leaders, the Administration proposed $1.4 billion for its community policing effort and an $809 million, or 31 percent, increase for the national service program. For a rundown on budget proposals for key agencies, click here.
In the budget, the Clinton Administration contends agencies are well on their way toward meeting its goal of reducing federal employment by 272,900 jobs by the end of 1999. As of last September, 250,000 jobs had already been cut. "We are a full two years ahead of schedule in the downsizing of government," Gore said today.
The Defense Department has borne the brunt of employment cuts, and that trend is slated to continue in fiscal 1998. DoD employment is projected to go down from 760,000 to 733,200, a decrease of 3.6 percent. Employment in non-Defense agencies is actually projected to rise next year, from 1,121,200 to 1,122,400.
The administration also says in the budget that agencies have saved more than $100 billion since 1993 through management reforms, eliminated more than 200 programs and projects, and closed nearly 2,000 obsolete field offices. The budget affirms the Administration's commitment to turning nine agencies into performance-based organizations, and lists seven strategies for continuing to improve performance and reduce costs:
- Restructure agencies.
- Improve effectiveness of the federal workplace.
- Reform federal purchasing practices.
- Expand competition to improve services and reduce costs.
- Follow the best private-sector practices in using information technology.
- Improve credit program performance.
- Improve business management practices.
Parts of this report are taken from CongressDaily.