Senate Dems to Offer Budget
Senate Dems to Offer Budget
Although they were short on details late last week, Senate Democrats promised to deliver this week a fiscal 1999 budget plan that funds many of President Clinton's priorities and maintains spending caps, at least in part, through a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase. The Clinton budget assumed a $1.19 per pack tax. The proposal also would expand Medicare coverage to people between the ages of 55 and 65.
"We are committed to [the] balanced budget," Senate Budget ranking member Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., told reporters today. "We also are committed to the priorities as put forward by the president," he added. Lautenberg also said "the most important thing is that all of these priorities are paid for."
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said, "It will meet [Congressional Budget Office] scoring. We're committed to that."
However, Republicans disputed that, releasing a letter from the CBO questioning whether mandatory spending cuts can be used to pay for discretionary priorities.
The plan will include a $1.50 a pack cigarette tax, as well as most of the revenue raisers included in the Clinton budget, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said. The tobacco plan would raise $82 billion, while the revenue increases would raise $24 billion.
The Democrats proposed creating an investment fund of $15 billion that would be used for spending outside the caps, adding that the funds would come from additional revenue. In all, they said their plan spends some $50 billion less than the president's budget.
The Democrats said if there is no tobacco settlement, their spending priorities would have to change. Daschle said the budget plan currently is being scored by the CBO, so he could not be more specific about the proposals.
However, they said the plan, to be unveiled during next week's Senate Budget Committee markup, would preserve budget surpluses to help save Social Security and provide targeted tax cuts. The proposal also would adopt administration plans to help build schools, reduce class size and increase federal childcare efforts. It also would boost biomedical research by $1.1 billion, provide $3.6 billion in tax cuts for efficient energy purchases and fund a program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Republicans immediately jumped on the plan, releasing a CBO letter saying that despite the OMB arguments, the CBO has never counted a proposed change in revenue as an offset for discretionary spending.
"CBO believes there is no basis for counting a change in revenues resulting from a provision in an appropriation act as a change in discretionary spending," CBO Director June O'Neill said in the letter. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., dismissed the Democrats' proposal today, saying it amounts to a "tax and spend" plan.
NEXT STORY: Satellite Privatization Opposed