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Clinton Declines To Back Automatic Spending Cuts

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President Clinton, in his first critical action on the federal budget, decided last week that spending in coming fiscal years will not have to be cut if deficits exceed targets set under a 1990 budget agreement.

The President, citing higher-than-expected deficit projections, said using flexible rather than fixed deficit targets would free his Administration to respond to emergencies and other forces outside of the government's control.

If Mr. Clinton had accepted the fixed targets and if the fiscal 1994 deficit were to exceed $270 billion--as the Bush Administration early this month predicted it would--federal spending would have been slashed automatically by $22.4 billion. Another $42.8 billion would have had to be trimmed from the fiscal 1995 budget under the Bush Administration's prediction for that year's deficit.

Half of the reductions would have come from education and other domestic programs, and the other half from the defense budget.

During his Presidential campaign, Mr. Clinton pledged that he would slice the federal deficit in half by fiscal 1997. He has since said, however, that the more gloomy deficit projections will make that goal harder to achieve.

In the 1990 budget agreement, lawmakers and Mr. Bush agreed that for fiscal years 1991, 1992, and 1993, federal budgets would not be subject to automatic cuts, known as sequesters, if forces outside of the government's control increased the deficit.

But they said that for fiscal 1994, which begins this coming Oct. 1, the President would be required on Jan. 21, 1993, to determine whether the government would have to meet fixed deficit targets.

Fixed targets that call for sequesters date back to the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law. Over the years, Education Department programs were automatically cut by hundreds of millions of dollars as the overall budget for the department approached and surpassed $30 billion.


Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander last week named Gov. Stephen E. Merrill of New Hampshire to serve on the National Assessment Governing Board through Sept. 30, 1995.

Mr. Merrill replaces former Gov. Michael N. Castle of Delaware, who resigned after he was elected to the House.


The Education Department has renewed a five-year contract with the University of California at Berkeley to operate the National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

The university is the lead partner in a seven-member consortium that shares the $30 million contract, which is authorized by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act.

A consortium led by Ohio State University, which had held the contract until 1987, was the only other applicant.

Other members of the consortium are: the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the University of Illinois at Champaign, the University of Minnesota, Teachers College of Columbia University, and the RAND Corp.

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