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Education, Defense are big winners in budget blueprint

Charting what he hopes will be a new course for the federal government, President Bush Wednesday released a bare-bones outline of his proposed $1.9 trillion fiscal 2002 budget, which proposes a total discretionary spending level of $660.7 billion in budget authority and $691.7 billion in outlays.

The budget projects a total FY02 surplus of $231 billion--of which $60 billion is on-budget surplus, with the remaining $171 billion from Social Security revenues.

Bush's budget also includes his campaign goal of cutting taxes by $1.6 trillion over 10 years, while limiting the growth of federal spending next year to 4 percent. And it devotes portions of the Social Security and Medicare trust fund surpluses to reform of those entitlements, while retiring $2 trillion of the nation's $3.2 trillion publicly held debt.

The budget outline anticipates a total budget surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next decade, of which $2.6 trillion is in the Social Security trust funds.

Although the outline is short on specifics, it does make clear which agencies and programs are the big winners, reaping increases above the 4 percent total spending growth that Bush would allow in the discretionary budget, and which would be forced to make do with less.

As expected, the priorities that Bush campaigned on--education and defense--are slated to receive generous spending boosts. The Education Department would see an 11.5 percent--or $4.6 billion--increase in total budget authority, including a $1.6 billion increase for elementary and secondary education initiatives, as part of Bush's proposal that was a centerpiece of his campaign.

Although the budget states that a final Defense budget will not be proposed until Secretary Rumsfeld completes his strategic review of defense needs, it starts with a 4.8 percent, or $14.2 billion increase over the FY01 enacted level.

In addition, Bush's budget calls for a $1.4 billion pay hike and other compensation initiatives and $400 million to improve military housing conditions in FY02, and a $20 billion five-year increase in the research and development budget.

The National Institutes of Health, a Republican budget darling in recent years, would get another $2.8 billion, or its largest annual increase ever.

To burnish his environmental credentials, Bush would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million, although EPA's budget would drop from $7.8 billion to $7.3 billion.

Also slated to take a hit is the Army Corps of Engineers, whose budget would fall off 14 percent from a FY01 level of $4.5 billion to $3.9 billion.

Despite providing full funding for the various infrastructure trust funds, Bush would cut the Transportation Department's budget from $18.4 billion to $16.3 billion, primarily by whacking congressional earmarks.

Bush would level funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Legal Services Corp.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would get a 2.3 percent increase of $7 million over the FY01 level, while the Corporation for National and Community Service would get $733 million.