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Bush's 'Flexible Freeze' Would Cut Education Funding, Panel Finds

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washington--President-elect George Bush's "flexible freeze" plan for the federal budget could result in a 10 percent cut in education spending within the next five years, according to an analysis by the House Budget Committee.

Although the freeze proposal "sounds like a policy to hold programs at current levels," the study argues, it actually would require "severe cuts."

During his campaign, Mr. Bush promised to balance the budget by 1993 without a tax increase, by limiting overall growth in spending to the general rate of inflation.

The problem with that idea, the study maintains, is that mandatory spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs is likely to rise much faster than the overall increase in prices throughout the economy.

Medicare costs, for example, are projected to increase by 82 percent over the next five years.

Spending for all programs included under the flexible-freeze plan will go up by a total of 36 percent between 1988 and 1993, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Mr. Bush's proposal, however,8assumes that overall inflation during that period--and with it, the maximum increase in spending--will total only 22 percent.

Thus, the study concludes, the Congress and the President would have to cut spending by as much as $62 billion a year by 1993 to stay within the limits of the freeze.

All nondefense programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, would have to be cut by 10 percent in order to achieve that level of savings, the study notes.

The study calculates that a 10 percent cut would result in the elimination of federal support for: 625,000 students in need of compensatory education, 445,000 students requiring special education, and 350,000 students receiving Pell Grants.

The study notes, however, that Mr. Bush promised during his campaign to protect the current level of support for education. If spending for education, Medicare, and certain other programs is exempted from cuts, it says, the remaining domestic programs would have to be cut by 16 percent each in order to achieve the balanced-budget goal.--rrw

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