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Bush search for 'fiscal sanity' could lead to agency cuts

After weeks of anticipation and speculation, President Bush Tuesday night will unveil a broad outline of his first budget in an address to a joint session of Congress--and the nation.

In the outline, Bush will hold discretionary spending to a 4 percent increase next year, to around $663 billion. Speaking to reporters at the White House before meeting with his Cabinet Monday, Bush said some members of Congress "may not like the fact that we're asking for there to be fiscal sanity in the budget.

"But that's one of the reasons I became the President," Bush said, "because I said, `Give us a chance, and we will have fiscal sanity in our budget,' and I look forward to making the case."

The White House talking points circulating on Capitol Hill this week were labeled, "A blueprint for new beginnings, a responsible budget for America's priorities."

They provided few new details of Bush's budget plans. But they did say he would propose tripling funds for children's reading programs, creating more than 1,200 new community health centers, and providing $900 million for a land and water conservation program.

According to congressional and administration sources, Bush's budget also will propose the full $52.9 billion the law provides for federal highway, aviation and mass transit. And he will seek a 6.4 percent boost in federal aid for historically black colleges.

But not mentioned in the White House talking points is a decision to cut the Energy Department's budget to $19 billion, roughly $700 million below current levels, a senior administration official told the Associated Press.

The official said the military portion of the agency's budget--two-thirds of it, covering nuclear weapons--would be minimally affected by the reductions. That will leave the rest of its programs taking cuts nearly across the board.

DOE is among many agencies whose budgets will be restrained to leave room in the projected $5.6 trillion, 10-year federal surplus for Bush's proposed tax cut and other priorities.

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