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Clinton Vows To Veto Bill That Would Slash E.D.'s 1995 Budget

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Washington

President Clinton last week vowed to veto a bill that would cut $874.5 million from Education Department programs during the current fiscal year.

The House passed HR 1158 last week by a vote of 235 to 189, with 10 Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting against it. The Senate is expected to take it up this week.

The President singled out proposed cuts in the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, and the Corporation for National and Community Service--all of which were proposed or significantly shaped by his Administration--as particularly misguided.

"I believe we ought to make some cuts. We've got to keep bringing the deficit down," Mr. Clinton said.

"But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. ... I believe a bill that cuts education to put in pork is the wrong way to balance the budget, and I will veto it," he said.

The President issued his veto threat at a ceremony in White Plains, Md., marking the first anniversary of the school-to-work program, which also faces inclusion in a block grant under another bill passed by a House panel last week. (See related story.)

At a White House briefing after the speech, Leon E. Panetta, the White House chief of staff, and Alice M. Rivlin, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the President would sign a rescissions, or spending-cuts, bill under certain conditions.

They said lawmakers must restore some $1.4 billion in cuts to win his signature, including $236 million for the safe-schools program, $210 million for the national-service program, $84 million for the Goals 2000 program, and $20 million for the school-to-work program.

Ms. Rivlin said Mr. Clinton suggested replacing those and other cuts with $1.5 billion in reductions achieved by cutting federal-courthouse building projects, highway construction, government travel, and "low priority" foreign aid and by enacting tax changes that would keep wealthy people from avoiding taxes by renouncing their U.S. citizenship.

Agreement Difficult

(See education, labor, and health programs, from the federal budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Nearly $7 billion of those savings would go toward disaster-relief projects, while another $275 million would lift the nation of Jordan's debt burden. The rest would be targeted toward deficit reduction.

The bill was the result of more than a week of negotiations between House and Senate conferees. The two chambers had passed strikingly different bills to cut 1995 spending. The House bill would have rescinded $1.7 billion from education programs, while the Senate version called for withholding only $403 million from education.

Mr. Clinton had said he would sign the Senate bill, and he fashioned his latest proposal to align with that chamber's original bill.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Edu~cation, and Rep. John Edward Porter, R-Ill., his House counterpart, had difficulty resolving their differences on the spending cuts.

Much of the hold-up resulted from a provision of the House bill calling for elimination of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance, a $1.3 billion program that helps poor people with winter fuel bills. Senate conferees refused to rescind any of that money.

Ultimately, Mr. Specter and Mr. Porter agreed to cut $319 million from the program, paving the way for a settlement.

Jeffords Balks

But just as the conferees were about to close their work on the education, labor, and health section of the rescissions package, Sen. James M. Jeffords, R-Vt., objected to the proposed education cuts, which totaled nearly $1 billion after the Specter-Porter compromise. In particular, Mr. Jeffords opposed a proposed cut of $70 million from the Title I compensatory-education program.

After further negotiations, Mr. Specter and Mr. Porter agreed to restore the proposed Title I rescission and $3.4 million for a newly authorized mentoring program for schoolchildren.

To offset the restorations, appropriators cut $65 million from adult job training and $8.4 million from child-care block grants.

Erik Smulson, a spokesman for Mr. Jeffords, said the Vermont lawmaker was pleased by the restorations but was disappointed that they did not go further. In particular, he said, Mr. Jeffords would have liked to restore the Goals 2000 rescission.

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