From: Alan Fram, Associated Press
Published February 7, 2005 12:00 AM

Bush Budget Would Cut Aid for Local Law Enforcement, Environment, Indian Schools

WASHINGTON — President Bush's budget will propose slashing grants to local law enforcement agencies and cutting spending for environmental protection, American Indian schools and home-heating aid for the poor, The Associated Press learned Saturday.


Bush molded the roughly $2.5 trillion spending plan for 2006 as a response to a string of record federal deficits, and is sends it to Congress on Monday.


The budget, the toughest he has written since entering the White House four years ago, seeks about half the increase for school districts in low-income communities he requested last year and a slight reduction for the National Park Service.


Many proposals face an unclear fate in Congress, where members of both parties are sure to defend favorite initiatives. Democrats blame the cuts on the tax reductions Bush has enacted and say that other items his budget omits -- a Social Security overhaul and costs for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- will only make matters worse.


"What it will lead to is growing pressure for draconian cuts," Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the Senate Budget Committee's top Democrat, said Saturday. "It's inescapable, the course he's led us on, whether it's this year or next year, is for very, very heavy cuts."


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Bush has said his budget will assemble federal resources for war, domestic security and other priorities and cull inefficient or redundant programs. Administration officials have said he will hold overall nondefense spending -- excepting domestic security -- to less than next year's expected 2.3 percent increase in inflation, meaning the programs will lose purchasing power.


"I stand with the president that we need to eliminate wasteful spending and we need to look through all the programs," said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa. "There's no question that's not the easiest thing to do in Washington."


The details obtained Saturday are the latest in a budget that will also seek savings from programs ranging from Amtrak and farmers' subsidies to Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled.


According to figures obtained by the AP, Bush would slice a $600 million grant program for local police agencies to $60 million next year. Grants to local firefighters, for which Congress provided $715 million this year, would fall to $500 million.


He would eliminate the $300 million the government gives to states for incarcerating illegal aliens who commit crimes. It's a proposal he has made in the past and one that Congress has ignored. Also gone would be assistance for police departments to improve technology and their ability to communicate with other agencies.


The Environmental Protection Agency's $8.1 billion would drop by $450 million, or about 6 percent, with most of the reductions coming in water programs and projects won by lawmakers for their home districts.


The Bureau of Indians Affairs would be sliced by $100 million to $2.2 billion. The reduction would come almost entirely from the agency's effort to build more schools.


The $2.2 billion program that provides low-income people -- in large part the elderly -- with home-heating aid would be cut to $2 billion. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the reduction would be "wrong-headed an inappropriate," especially with this season's jump in oil prices.


The park service's budget would drop nearly 3 percent to $2.2 billion, largely due to a reduction in its construction account.


Several cultural agencies will get about the same as this year's levels, including the Smithsonian Institution and the national endowments for the arts and humanities, which distribute money to local groups.


Even on the plus side, Bush's budget will show constraint compared with previous years. That in part reflects his pledge to cut last year's projected $521 billion in half by 2009. One lawmaker said the budget will estimate that year's shortfall at about $230 billion -- well under the record $427 billion it will project for 2005.


Bush will seek about 5 percent more, or about $600 million, for the $12.8 billion program for low-income area school districts. Last year, he requested a $1 billion increase.


Defense Department documents obtained Friday show the Pentagon's budget would grow by 4.8 percent to $419.3 billion -- $3.4 billion less than he planned to seek for 2006 a year ago.


Other areas would fare better.


The Coast Guard -- now part of the Homeland Security Department -- will get $8.1 billion, $600 million over this year. Included will be a healthy increase for its plans to buy more oceangoing vessels, a boon to the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in whose state many of the ships are built.


Community health centers would grow to over $2 billion, an increase of $304 million, or almost 18 percent, over this year. Bush said he wants to every poor county to have one of the centers, which are used heavily by the poor.


Source: Associated Press


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