Lobbyists Applaud House Budget Plan
WASHINGTON--Education lobbyists, applauding the fiscal 1988 budget plan recently adopted by the House, are now attempting to win support for a similar proposal in the Senate.
The House budget, drafted by members of the Democratic majority and approved in an April 9 vote largely along party lines, would increase spending for education and training programs by $2.2 billion over inflation in the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.
According to a one-page fact sheet prepared by the House Budget Committee, the funding increases would be targeted toward such "priority'' programs as Chapter 1, Pell Grants, education for the handicapped, and a variety of proposed education programs designed to improve the nation's economy.
The exact amount of money allotted to the programs, however, will be decided by the House Appropriations Committee, using the budget resolution as a guideline.
"We are full out in support of the House budget,'' said Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.
Under the House plan, she noted, all education programs would receive a funding increase at least large enough to keep pace with inflation--a key goal of the major education groups in this year's budget battle.
In the Senate, Ms. Frost and other education lobbyists expressed disappointment with a proposal drafted by Lawton Chiles of Florida, the Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
The plan, which has yet to be voted on by the full Senate, would provide only $700 million in new funding for education. And even that amount, Ms. Frost said, would be reserved for new programs and could be spent only if those programs were enacted by the Congress.
As an alternative, education groups are rallying behind an amendment offered by Senator Ernest Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina, and Senator John Danforth, Republican of Missouri. Their proposal would increase education funding by about $1.6 billion after inflation, according to Ms. Frost.
The major problem with Senator Chiles's plan, Ms. Frost said, is that it would pay for increases in some education programs by drastically reducing spending in some others. The programs targeted for cuts reportedly include impact aid, Chapter 2, and college work-study grants.
"Our position is that you maintain the existing programs and take it from there,'' Ms. Frost said. "We don't think you should rob Peter to pay Paul.''
The Hollings-Danforth amendment would provide all education programs with increases at least to cover inflation, while providing an additional $500 million for the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program, $800 million more for Pell Grants for low-income college students, and an extra $400 million for special education.
According to the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative William H. Gray 3rd, Democrat of Pennsylvania, the plan approved by the full House would provide about $4.6 billion more for the so-called "function 500'' account--which includes education programs--than the budget proposal submitted early this year by President Reagan.
In a political maneuver designed to demonstrate the bipartisan unpopularity of Mr. Reagan's budget, Mr. Gray requested a vote on the President's plan as well as his own. The Administration's proposal was voted down on a vote of 394 to 27.
Republicans, however, were quick to warn that Democrats were courting disaster by basing their budget plan on a proposed $18-billion tax increase. President Reagan has repeatedly vowed to veto any such increase.
The budget resolution itself--technically a nonbinding piece of legislation--does not require a presidential signature.
Republican members are also disputing Democratic claims that their budget plan meets the deficit-reduction targets set out in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. Under the law, the federal deficit is supposed to shrink to no more than $108 billion next year.
To meet that goal, the Democrats are proposing the revenue increase and equal cuts of a little less than $9 billion in both defense and domestic programs. Most of the domestic savings would come out of the Energy and Interior departments, as well as through reforms in the Medicare system.
But in order to meet the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings target--at least on paper--the House Democrats were forced into an embarrassing flip-flop. After harshly criticizing the Administration for using what they said were overly optimistic economic forecasts to get below the $108-billion mark, the Democrats found they were unable to meet that same target using the less-generous economic guidelines set out by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
In the end, the Democrats on the Budget Committee voted to adopt the Administration's more favorable economic scenario.
In the Senate, members are expected to vote this week or next on Mr. Chiles's plan and on several alternative proposals. As in the House, Republican leaders in the Senate have not drafted their own budget, saying that the Congress should first undertake a drastic reform of the entire budget process.