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Bush, Democrats outline budget differences

Bush, Democrats outline budget differences

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Promising to fund the "highest national priorities" and at the same time "restrain spending," President Bush outlined his first federal budget proposal, while Democrats said it threatened to return the nation to the days of deficit spending.

The president, saying in his recorded weekly radio address that a federal budget is "about the size of a big city phone book and about as hard to read," urged Americans to focus on the projected federal budget surplus.

"The blueprint I submit this week contains many numbers, but there is one that probably counts more than any other -- $5.6 trillion," said the president. "That is the surplus the federal government expects to collect over the next 10 years; money left over after we have met our obligations to Social Security, Medicare, health care, education, defense and other priorities."


Bush addresses Congress on Tuesday and sends his budget to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Typical family's tax cut: $1,600

The president, using the $5.6 trillion figure projected by the Congressional Budget Office, said his budget would use the non-Social Security portion of the federal surplus to pay down the national debt, give the biggest percentage spending increase to the Education Department, and give Social Security and Medicare "every dollar they need to meet their commitments."

Bush also said his budget would include a tax cut for everyone who pays taxes, which he said would mean a savings of $1,600 for the typical American family.

"Nobody will be targeted in and nobody will be targeted out," said the president of his proposal to cut taxes by $1.6 trillion over 10 years.

"My plan returns about one out of every four dollars of the surplus to American taxpayers who created the surplus in the first place," said Bush. "A surplus in tax revenue, after all, means that taxpayers have been overcharged. And usually, when you've been overcharged, you expect to get something back."


Democrats say tax cut too large

But in the Democratic radio response, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack warned against relying on 10-year projections for the federal surplus.

"After all, 10 years is a long time. If we over-commit on tax cuts, what happens if we have a recession?" said Vilsack. "Do we risk going back to the days of record deficits like those during the Reagan-Bush years, which led to a growing national debt?"

And he disputed Bush's quantification of how much Bush's tax cut would amount to. "The real impact of his proposal will take over $2 trillion -- or virtually all of the estimated surplus," Vilsack said.

The Iowa Democrat, echoing the argument of his fellow Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said more of the surplus should be used to pay down the national debt, shore up Social Security and fund education programs and prescription drug coverage for seniors instead of paying for a "fiscally irresponsible tax cut that could risk our prosperity."

Vilsack also charged that Bush's plan is too generous to the wealthy.

"His idea is based on the premise that they pay more, so they should receive more," said Vilsack. "A fairer way of approaching tax cuts is not to ask who pays more, but who needs the relief more."

President to cite wasteful spending

Senior administration officials told CNN on Friday that, in his speech to Congress on Tuesday, the president will cite wasteful government spending as the economy's biggest threat and will warn lawmakers that spending on discretionary programs can no longer increase at 8 percent per year as it has over the last three years. This argument is intended to ward off criticism that the president's tax plan is too large, the officials said.

The White House has already said the president's budget will include an 11.5 percent boost in spending for the Department of Education, the biggest percentage increase for any Cabinet department, a $2.8 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health and a $21 billion increase on Medicare.

Bush to highlight waste, call for new budget priorities
February 23, 2001

The White House
  •  U.S. President George W. Bush

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