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OMB projects $76 billion budget surplus

OMB projects $76 billion budget surplus

Declaring "the era of big deficits is over," President Clinton Wednesday announced the Office of Management and Budget is forecasting a $76 billion surplus for fiscal 1999, which would put the federal government in the black for the second year in a row.

A previous OMB estimate, issued in May, predicted the fiscal 1999 surplus at just $53 billion. The fiscal 1998 surplus was officially pegged last fall at $70 billion.

Clinton, who spoke today at a White House ceremony where he congratulated OMB staffers, nevertheless once again warned against using the surplus in the short term for any purpose other than Social Security. "Before we even consider new spending or tax cuts, first we must set this surplus aside until we save Social Security for the 21st century," Clinton said.

But even as the prospect for an extended Senate impeachment trial appeared to grow, Clinton optimistically predicted Congress and the administration "will surprise the skeptics by dealing with the Social Security challenge over the next several months."

Clinton also expressed determination to tackle other White House priorities, singling out passage of health maintenance organization reform, funding "our education commitments" and dealing with "the Medicare challenge," which he described as "the same thing as the Social Security challenge, except that it will hit us sooner."

At a White House ceremony Thursday, Clinton will announce a proposal to substantially increase in funding for after-school programs, tripling the current $200 million to $600 million.

Meanwhile, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, today wrote Clinton to urge him to avoid putting tax hikes in the administration budget proposal due out early next month. Archer warned the president against repeating last year's budget proposal, which Archer said contained 43 tax increases that raised $38.9 billion.

Of those proposals, "A mere $2 billion were loophole closures. The remainder were old-fashioned tax hikes," Archer wrote.

In another statement, Archer welcomed Clinton's announcement that this year's estimated surplus is $76 billion but he lamented the fact that it would be $16.4 billion larger had it not been spent on more government. Archer said last year's spending dipped into the surplus, which he said should have been saved for Social Security.

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