E.D. Bill Worked On as Budget 'Summit' Stalls
Washington--With budget negotiations at a major impasse late last week, automatic funding cuts loomed over House and Senate conferees who are working to resolve differences between their two versions of the education appropriations bill for the current fiscal year.
The Senate measure would fund education programs at $21.3 billion; the House version would provide $20.6 billion.
"I see no reason why we can't have a successful conference and send [the bill] down in time for the big continuing resolution," said Representative William H. Natcher, Democrat of Kentucky and chairman of the House Appropriations panel on labor, health and human services, and education.
The conferees working on the education bill are members of Mr. Natcher's subcommittee and their counterparts from the Senate.
As in prior years, the Congress has not passed any of its regular appropriations bills for the current fiscal year. Therefore, it will use a continuing resolution--in theory, a stop-gap funding measure--to finance all government agencies for the remainder of fiscal 1988.
The Congress is expected to take up action on the resolution this week. The federal government is currently operating on a short-term continuing resolution that funds4agencies at their fiscal 1987 levels through Dec. 16.
Meanwhile, Congressional and White House representatives meeting in a so-called economic summit were gridlocked late last week in their effort to avert the automatic budget cuts set to take effect Nov. 20.
The summit must produce a package of tax increases and spending cuts that would reduce the federal deficit for the current fiscal year by at least $23 billion. Any package the summit produces will be incorporated into the continuing resolution.
A number of proposals were re8ported to be under consideration by negotiators from the legislative and executive branches.
One would freeze appropriations at 1987 levels for a full year, while another would freeze them for six months and then allow a 2 percent increase.
In the absence of a deficit-reduction package that meets or exceeds the $23-billion target called for in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings balanced-budget law, most federal programs face across-the-board cuts at the end of this week.
Half of the funds would be sliced from the defense budget, with the other half coming from domestic programs.
The House has already passed its own deficit-reduction package, and the Senate Finance Committee has one cleared for a floor vote if the summit fails to produce an agreement.
Education lobbyists say it is important that the Congress pass a full-year continuing resolution with new appropriations levels for fiscal 1988 by Nov. 20.
If the automatic cuts are triggered while the government is operating on the short-term continuing resolution, they note, education programs would have to accept an 8.5 percent reduction from the 1987 funding levels, rather than from the higher 1988 levels proposed.