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House Lawmakers Earmark $61 Billion for Spending Panel

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WASHINGTON--Members of the House Appropriations panel that has jurisdiction over education and social-service programs will have a total of $61.6 billion to work with as they craft a fiscal 1993 spending bill, under an agreement reached last week by the chairmen of the 13 Appropriations subcommittees.

The amount equals what President Bush included in his budget for those programs, according to an aide familiar with the spending accord. It is $1 billion more than the amount allocated to the subcommittee last year.

The $61.6-billion figure is for budget authority, which governs the ability of federal agencies to commit to spending money. The other measure of fiscal activity, outlays, reflects the actual expenditure of funds by agencies.

The agreement was reached in private last week by the subcommittee chairmen. The full committee is expected to meet this week to ratify the decision.

Most observers agree that it is going to be a difficult year for appropriators because of domestic spending caps imposed under the 1990 budget accord.

The Congress decided this year not to loosen the spending caps when it defeated bills that would have allowed transfers between defense and domestic spending, which the budget pact prohibits. Any savings in defense spending in fiscal 1993, which could be as much as $15 billion, must under the terms of the budget law be applied to reducing the deficit. (See Education Week, April 15, 1992.)

"Basically we get the same that the President asked for, so we've come out slightly better than the other subcommittees. But it's brutal,'' said an aide to Representative William H. Natcher, the Kentucky Democrat who chairs the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee. "We're about to get a very rude awakening.''

Pell Grant Problem

Adding to the subcommittee's problem is the fact that nearly $2 billion in budget authority for fiscal 1992 is to be released on Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year. That money, which will actually be spent in succeeding months, must be included in the outlay total for fiscal 1993.

Moreover, the Education Department has announced that the Pell Grant program is expected to have a shortfall of nearly $1.5 billion. Department officials and Congressional appropriators have been meeting to find a way to pay for the shortfall, but have not yet reached a solution.

A large portion of the required funds will probably come from the fiscal 1993 appropriations bill, Mr. Natcher's aide predicted.

Because of the financial constraints on the bill, the aide warned, "There are no programs off limits.''

But the aide added that the subcommittee would not fund education programs below the $32.3 billion requested by President Bush. That amount, the largest ever proposed for education programs, would represent a $1.6-billion increase over the current fiscal year. (See Education Week, Feb. 5, 1992.)

Observers also predicted that the subcommittee will reject some of the President's legislative proposals, including the more than $700 million he has proposed for America 2000.

Funding Shift Still Sought

That is little consolation, though, to education lobbyists here, who contend that education programs will not get the support the lobbyists say they deserve until defense savings can be shifted to domestic programs.

"Our general position is without the ability to transfer defense savings, the amount left to make a major investment in [education] programs is insufficient,'' said Susan Frost, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.

Ms. Frost said she hopes that by the end of the appropriations process this fall the Congress and the Administration will be forced to reconsider the transfer issue after seeing how poorly domestic programs are funded.

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