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Still Unclear How E.D. Would Fare Under Budget Plans

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Washington--Members of the Congress late last week moved closer to approving a five-year deficit-reduction package and spending bills for the new fiscal year, but it was uncertain how Education Department programs would fare.

Congressional conferees from the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on labor, health and human services, and education met last Thursday to resolve differences in House and Senate spending bills for those programs.

They put off discussing final funding levels for education programs, however, until later in the week.

Assuming conferees reached an agreement on the 1991 spending bill, the compromise measure was expect4ed to be brought up for final Congressional approval over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate last week approved different budget packages that would reduce the deficit by $40 billion in fiscal 1991 and an estimated total of $500 billion over the next five years. Conferees were set to resolve differences in the plans late last week.

The House also passed a five-day continuing resolution extending spending authority for federal agencies until midnight Oct. 24. President Bush indicated last week that he might sign the measure.

The House and Senate deficit-reduction plans were markedly different in their approaches to tax increases and spending reductions.

The House plan, crafted by the Democratic leadership, would in8crease taxes on the rich, provide tax breaks for low- and middle-income people, and limit the savings obtained from the Medicare program.

The bipartisan Senate plan, which had Mr. Bush's blessing, contained no tax-rate increases and was similar to the defeated budget compromise worked out by the President and Conel15lgressional leaders. Nearly a third of its revenue increases would come from raising taxes on gasoline, cigarettes, and alcohol. The Senate plan also would provide increased revenues by limiting itemized deductions for taxpayers earning more than $100,000 a year.

Also late last week, conferees from the House Education and Labor and Senate Labor and Human Resources committees were scheduled to meet to iron out differences in plans to cut about $2 billion out of the Stafford Student Loan program over the next five years. The changes would make fewer students attending trade schools and community colleges eligible for assistance and impose other restrictions on eligibility and distribution of the loans.

In other budget action, the House last week approved a $1.78-billion Interior Department spending bill that includes $619.3 million for Indian education. Senate approval was expected late last week.

HR 5769 gives $543.5 million to programs administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Interior Department and $75.8 million to Education Department programs.

Of the $543.5 million, $210 million would be set aside for coming-year shortfalls. The figure is $35 million less than that apportioned by the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee because of revised allocations contained in the 1991 budget resolution, H Con Res 310.

The Education Department programs include $56.6 million for grants to school districts and Indian-controlled schools, $12.1 million in special programs for students, and $4.2 million for literacy and other special programs for adults.

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