Liberal Study Finds More Cuts in Bush Budget

Spending restraints in President Bush’s budget proposal would mean deep cuts to environmental protection, community development, veterans benefits and other programs through the end of the decade, a liberal think tank said Wednesday.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said its calculations, made using budget information provided to congressional committees, reveal future spending cuts that the White House wants but didn’t detail in the 2006 budget it sent to lawmakers Monday.

“They did real budgeting, they just decided to hide it,” said Richard Kogan, a budget analyst at the center. “I don’t fault them for budgeting, I fault them for hiding it.”

By proposing annual lids on government spending without giving program-by-program details of potential program cuts in 2007 through 2010, the report said, the White House sidestepped a debate on policy trade-offs.

“It is difficult to assess the impact of the proposed caps when one does not know what types of cuts the administration is planning to achieve them,” the report concluded.

White House budget office spokesman Chad Kolton would not comment specifically on the center’s calculations but said future budget decisions will be made year-by-year.

“There is still ample room for increases in priority programs,” he said. “We’re happy to talk about what we can do going forward, even in very restrained budgets.”

The cuts in the center’s report aim at a narrow slice of government programs with budgets set annually by lawmakers, not including defense and homeland security. Their calculations assume that the amount of money devoted to the programs should keep up with inflation.

The center calculated that education and employment programs would take the biggest hit, measured in dollars lost, during the second half of the decade. Those programs would lose $43.2 billion, while natural resources and environment programs would lose $27.2 billion and health programs would lose $25.9 billion.

By 2010, programs except the Commerce Department would see cuts between 4 percent and 34 percent. Energy programs would be cut 34 percent, environment programs by 23 percent and community development by 21 percent. The center’s analysts said the Commerce Department’s budget reflected money needed for the upcoming census.

Other than the census, only a few areas would escape the reductions. They include international development and humanitarian assistance, federal law enforcement, water transportation programs and Medicare administration.

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© 2005 The Associated Press