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Budget surplus up to $115 billion this year

Budget surplus up to $115 billion this year

The White House's announcement Monday that the Office of Management and Budget is now estimating a $115 billion surplus for FY99-$16 billion higher than its last estimate-was met with a muted and mixed reaction on Capitol Hill, where GOP leaders are scrambling to finish fiscal 2000 spending bills before the start of the new fiscal year Friday.

At presstime, OMB had not specified how much of the new surplus estimate is Social Security revenue and whether it estimates a surplus or deficit without Social Security.

In comparison, the Congressional Budget Office's July 1 update estimated the fiscal 1999 total surplus at $120 billion-with a Social Security surplus of more than $125 billion and a non-Social Security, or on-budget, deficit of around $4 billion.

OMB was similarly more cautious than the CBO in its fiscal 2000 projections, estimating a total budget surplus of $142 billion, of which $137 billion was Social Security surplus and $5 billion an on-budget surplus. The CBO projected the fiscal 2000 unified surplus at $161 billion, of which $14 billion is the on-budget surplus Congress upon is now relying upon to balance the fiscal 2000 federal books without dipping into the Social Security surplus.

House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, released a statement that said: "More surplus money for Washington means less money for families and workers across our country, and tax relief is the only way to balance the scales. But since President Clinton killed tax relief, Republicans will guard these funds to protect Social Security and Medicare, and pay down the debt-and stop Washington from spending them on a smorgasbord of government programs." House Budget Committee Democratic Staff Director Thomas Kahn called the updated OMB numbers "very, very good news and the result of the 1993 Clinton budget and the strong economy it helped produce. But it is also a reminder that we are witnessing a meltdown of the fiscal 2000 budget process, and that that according to... [the CBO], they [Republicans] have already spent the on-budget surplus, and are on track to spend even more."

According to the White House, the surplus is the largest ever and, along with the fiscal 1998 surplus of $69 billion, creates the first back-to-back surpluses in more than 40 years. Speaking at the White House before departing for New Orleans, the president once again importuned the GOP, using the phrase "work with me" or its equivalent no less than eight times. Clinton, who proclaimed himself "not pessimistic," indicated such cooperation was needed to go beyond a narrow budget deal. "We can do pretty well by conflict, I suppose, and eventually drag this out to where we've at least got a decent education budget and we're still paying down the debt," he said. "But they have to work with me if we're going to extend the life of Medicare and Social Security and do some of these other very important things."

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