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Senate Panel Approves Broad Federal Spending Guidelines

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Washington--The Congress last week took the first step toward a 1990 budget pact between its leaders and the President.

A Senate panel approved spending guidelines that would bestow one of its most generous increases on the budget function that includes education.

The budget agreement, announced April 14, provides $157.5 billion in total budget authority for discretionary domestic programs, a category that includes most education programs.

That represents a $14.7-billion, 10.3 percent increase over 1989 spending levels and is $3.9 billion more than the amount needed to keep pace with inflation and retain current services.

Negotiators agreed to hold defense spending to $305.5 billion, $3.7 billion under the current-services level.

President Bush's budget, in comparison, proposed raising defense spending to keep pace with inflation and freezing most domestic programs at 1989 levels.

"Our understanding is that the nondefense discretionary cap leaves more than enough room to cover the kind of investment in children that we think is necessary," said Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding. "It depends on how they divide it up."

The Senate Budget Committee's plan would provide $40.7 million for "Function 500," the funding category that includes education, training, and some social-services programs. That is $2.6 billion more8than the 1989 budget and $1.7 billion more than would be necessary to keep pace with inflation.

Only the science, space, and technology category would receive a comparable increase under the resolution, which was approved on a bipartisan vote of 16 to 7.

The education and training mark "will accommodate spending increases for high-priority functions such as Head Start, compensatory education, teacher training, and student-aid initiatives," said Jim Sasser, the Tennessee Democrat who chairs the budget panel.

But the spending total for Function 500 must cover funding for President Bush's education initiatives and a new child-care program if they are enacted by the Congress. And it would not appear to be large enough to encompass the more than $2 billion in increased spending on education that has been called for by education and children's advocacy groups.

After the House and Senate agree on a budget resolution setting guidelines for funding categories, appropriations committees make the specific decisions on how much money is to be allocated to particular programs.

A "reconciliation" bill, containing new revenues and cost-saving changes in entitlement programs, must also be drafted, and budget resolutions include cost-cutting targets for authorizing committees as well as spending guidelines.

The resolution approved by the Senate budget panel last week instructs the Labor and Human Resources Committee, which oversees education, to cut $250 million in budget authority and $170 million in outlays, the amount that would actually be spent in fiscal 1990.

Budget aides said lawmakers assume that some of those savings would be realized by legislation to reduce student-loan defaults. Budget negotiators also discussed such possibilities as charging borrowers loan-origination fees or decreasing subsidies to lenders.

In other budget-related action last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a supplemental appropriations bill that would increase spending in the current fiscal year by almost $5 billion.

The legislation provides some of the $2 billion requested by President Bush, including $892 million needed to cover a shortfall in the Stafford student-loan program, and a host of Congressional additions.

But the committee rejected the President's proposal to cut domestic discretionary programs by 1.1 percent to partially offset its cost.

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