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Conferees Not Expected To Improve Outlook for 1992 Education Budget

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WASHINGTON--House and Senate conferees began working late last week to fashion a fiscal year 1993 budget resolution.

Meanwhile, both the House and Senate last week approved rescission packages for fiscal 1992 that would affect education programs.

Differences between the House and Senate resolutions are relatively minor in this tight budget year. Education lobbyists complained that it is unlikely that the conferees will draft a blueprint that would permit large increases in education spending when the appropriation committees craft spending bills later in the budget process.

"We don't have a lot at stake [during the resolution conference] because they're both bad,'' said Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of education groups.

Representative Leon E. Panetta, the California Democrat who chairs the House Budget Committee, and Senator Jim Sasser, the Tennessee Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, agreed that the only major difference between the chambers' budget resolutions is a House proposal to cut defense spending by $6 billion more than the Senate version. The savings would be devoted to deficit reduction.

Bills to allow defense savings to be applied to domestic programs were overwhelmingly defeated last month.

Ms. Frost said lawmakers may change their minds when they see how tight the money is for fiscal 1993.

For the spending category including education and other social programs, the House has recommended $36.4 billion in discretionary budget authority, $915 million more than the Senate. But the Senate has recommended $35.2 billion in outlays, $259 million more than the House.

Budget authority sets forth how much can be appropriated for a program, while outlays represent the actual amount to be spent in the specific fiscal year covered by the bill.

There is a difference because many programs, including most education programs, are "forward-funded,'' actually spending money one to three years after it is appropriated.

An aide to Mr. Panetta said the chairman hopes conferees will adopt the higher numbers for the social-spending category.

The House resolution recommends increased funding for education programs, despite recommending an overall freeze in domestic spending. The Senate resolution simply recommends an across-the board freeze.

Under the House resolution, education programs would receive an increase to keep pace with inflation, while other domestic programs would be cut. An additional $900 million is suggested for increases in some programs, including Chapter 1, special education, and Pell Grants..

But those recommended increases will likely be trimmed in conference, as senators may wish to protect other domestic programs.

In addition, the House figures assume acceptance of a plan to use $415 million in defense funds to cover part of the cost of the impact-aid program. The Bush Administration objects to that and the Senate bill does not recommend such a change.

The rescission bills represent a Congressional response to a package of cuts proposed by President Bush, most of which are not included.

The House bill, HR 4990, passed by a vote of 412 to 2. It would trim by $3 billion education programs scheduled to receive "delayed obligations'' at the end of the fiscal year, including Chapter 1, student aid, vocational and adult education, impact aid, and research.

The Senate bill, S 2403, passed by a vote of 61 to 38. It would cut $2 million that the Education Department plans to use for a new demonstration vocational-education program.

The plan, which has not been approved by the Congress, would allow high school students to contract with private employers for training.

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