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New Additions to Education Budget May Not Survive Deficit- Cutting Plan

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Washington--The House Budget Committee approved an overall budget plan last week that could provide the Education Department with as much as $17 billion in fiscal 1985--about $1.6 billion over its current level of funding and $1.5 billion more than the Reagan Administration has requested.

Lobbyists and Congressional aides were quick to caution, however, that the $17-billion figure for fiscal 1985 was "extremely soft" and that House and Senate plans to reduce the federal budget deficit remain quite fluid.

Under Congressional budget rules, the House and Senate budget panels are required by April 15 to approve nonbinding budget resolutions that set broad spending targets for the chambers' appropriations committees. The chambers are supposed to reconcile any differences between their resolutions and pass a final version by May 15.

$100-Billion 'Downpayment'

The rules also provide for the passage of a second, binding resolution in the fall.

Action on the first budget resolu-tion has been complicated this year by President Reagan's challenge to the Congress last January to work with him on the development of a three-year, $100-billion "downpayment" on the budget deficit. (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1984.) The Administration estimates that if no action is taken, $538 billion will be added to the nation's $1 trillion-plus budget deficit by the end of fiscal 1987.

The plan approved by the House budget panel last week would reduce projected deficits over the three-year period by $182 billion through a combination of budget cuts, tax increases, and savings on interest on the national debt.

Senior Senate leaders, meanwhile, continued to consider ways to begin full debate on a $150-billion, three-year plan that was approved by the White House on March 15.

High-Priority Areas

Nondefense, discretionary programs such as education would fare quite differently under the two proposals. The Administration-backed plan would reduce overall domestic spending by about $43 billion, com-pared with only $18 billion under the House budget panel's version.

According to several lobbyists, members of the House Black Caucus successfully convinced the budget panel to include language in its version of the resolution calling for spending increases "in high-priority discretionary areas" such as child nutrition, student financial aid, and elementary- and secondary-education programs for handicapped and disadvantaged students. The measure is expected to reach the House floor by April 4.

Meanwhile, a procedural battle blocked action on the Administration-backed plan in the Senate last week. Reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr., Republican of Tennessee, and other senior Republicans had hoped to bring the plan directly to the floor of the chamber by attaching it as an amendment to a fiscal 1984 budget-reconciliation bill left over from last year.

Late last week, a group of Senate Democrats announced that they objected to this truncated approach, adding that they would not grant a waiver allowing the move.--tm

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