House budget chair: We won't break the caps

House budget chair: We won't break the caps

An optimistic House Budget Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday that appropriators should be able to make the discretionary spending cuts needed to stay under the fiscal 2000 spending cap of $536 billion set in the fiscal 2000 budget resolution for both defense and non-defense programs, while also increasing spending within the cap for defense and education funds.

Total discretionary spending for fiscal 1999, including almost $22 billion in emergency spending over the budget caps, is $573 billion. Total non-defense discretionary spending for 1999 is $293 billion, compared to the 2000 level of $246 billion.

"Are there programs that are going to be cut? Yes," Kasich said, but he added that sticking with the budget caps set in the 1997 balanced budget agreement "is more important" for the Republican Party.

"The President is a big spender and that's all we have to tell people" when Clinton and Democrats criticize the GOP for slashing social spending in line with the cap, he said.

Kasich suggested that to stay under the 2000 cap, appropriators will "have access to some fees, they'll have access to some mandatory spending" to partially pay for this year's appropriations bills.

Despite prodding from reporters, Kasich refused to release the savings assumptions submitted to the Budget Committee from the other committees that suggest ways to reduce spending. Kasich said: "The committees have asked me not to do that. ... I don't have to justify to anybody. This is what my colleagues have asked me to do, and this is what I'm going to do."

Kasich was equally respectful of the Ways and Means Committee's jurisdiction over tax cuts, suggesting that a capital gains cut would be in the mix, but emphasizing that the decision is up to tax writers.

Kasich's budget calls for up to $15 billion in fully offset tax cuts in 2000, $143 billion over five years and $778 billion over 10 years. He also said budget writers fully expect to bump those numbers up after the CBO issues budget re- estimates that are expected to show projections of an increased surplus-but said his budget resolution does not specify how any re-estimated on-budget surplus dollars should be used, at the request of his GOP colleagues.

"We agreed to postpone that debate," Kasich said, because not all House Republicans agree on how that money should be used. GOP tax cuts are "based on growth of the economy ... and frankly, for the next few years, I don't see the economy slowing," Kasich said.

Launching a harsh new offensive against the GOP budget plan, Vice President Al Gore today ripped into the proposal, saying it smacked of Republican plans from previous years that nearly "wrecked the United States" and "drove our economy into the ditch."

Gore accused Republicans of "fictional, illusional negative budgeting," saying the plan was "irresponsible in the extreme. It pours hundreds of billions of dollars into open- ended, extremely risky tax schemes."

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart also aggressively assailed the Republicans, accusing them of issuing a "political statement" that puts tax cuts before saving Social Security.