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Panel Votes $300 Million Cut in School Construction, Job Training

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The House Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would cut $300 million in school-construction and job-training funds this year to help offset the cost of a $3.2 billion supplemental defense-spending bill.

The cuts would also serve as an installment on a 1995 rescissions package House Republicans have promised to introduce. Details on deeper rescissions needed to help pay for $200 billion in tax cuts included in their "Contract With America" are expected this week.

HR 845, passed Feb. 10 on a voice vote, would wipe out $100 million in appropriations intended for repairing and renovating public school buildings, primarily in low-income areas.

HR 889, the defense supplemental bill, was passed the same day, also by voice vote. Both bills could reach the House floor this week.

According to a recent General Accounting Office report, U.S. schools are in need of $112 billion in repairs. (See Education Week, Feb. 8, 1995.)

But language in HR 845 states that such construction is not a federal function and should be paid for locally.

President Clinton's 1996 budget request also proposes rescinding the funds, though Education Department officials say that proposal is being reconsidered. (See Education Week, Feb. 15, 1995.)

Job Training Targeted

As part of HR 845's $1.4 billion in rescissions, $200 million would also be trimmed from five Job Training Partnership Act programs that serve adolescents--roughly one-third of the $598 million appropriated for those programs in fiscal 1995.

The bill states that there is little evidence that the programs are "successfully preparing people for the future job market."

Mr. Clinton's 1996 budget request would consolidate the same programs into a state block grant for youth job training, while paring $302 million in funding.

"This just jump-starts that recommendation," said David Kohn, the press secretary for Rep. John Edward Porter, R-Ill., the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which recommended the education cuts.

Mr. Porter's panel, which oversees about $70 billion in domestic discretionary spending, was to mark up its portion of the main 1995 rescissions bill this week.

"No target has been given to Mr. Porter. It's just cut as much as you can," said Mr. Kohn, who added that final subcommittee recommendations are not likely to be released until late March.

Long-Term Plans

Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee has set late March as its new target date for outlining a long-term plan to pay for the $200 billion in tax cuts the G.O.P. contract calls for over five years.

While Republican leaders had said the plan would be packaged in the form of a revised fiscal 1995 budget resolution, Chris Ullman, a spokesman for the committee, said the plan will be presented through "a yet-unnamed mechanism."

Education lobbyists--especially those representing postsecondary education--are gearing up for a battle over the plan, which is expected to include a proposal to eliminate federal interest subsidies of college loans for the time students are in school.

While the proposal would save an estimated $9 billion over five years, it would add about 17 percent to the cost of the average four-year student loan. The idea was part of a Republican alternative budget for 1995 that was backed by Rep. John R. Kasich, R-Ohio, who is now the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

President Clinton last week sharply criticized the idea. (See related story.)

Republicans hope to have their fiscal 1996 budget proposal--an alternative to the spending plan President Clinton released this month--completed by the end of April, Mr. Ullman said.

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