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Negotiators Agree on How Much Money For Education, Training

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House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement late last week on a fiscal 1997 spending plan that recommends funding levels for the Department of Education and other federal agencies.

The budget resolution, a nonbinding guide for appropriations panels, is expected to be taken up by the full chambers this week. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Negotiators had hoped to reach a deal on the plan earlier in the week, but became mired in debate over the level of new funding for all non-entitlement programs.

In the end, the lawmakers compromised on $4 billion in additional funding. That would bring discretionary funding for the category that includes education and training programs to $37.5 billion in 1997. The House had called for $35.4 billion in that area; the Senate initially wanted $38 billion.

The conference-committee negotiators also erased several policy recommendations that the House had included in its version of the resolution, such as the elimination of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act and direct federal loans to college students.

"But that doesn't mean the interest has waned in the House," for scrapping those Clinton administration initiatives, said Chris Ullman, the spokesman for the House Budget Committee.

The document, however, calls for an unspecified cap in the direct-lending program.

Earlier in the week, GOP negotiators declared their unanimity on wanting a balanced federal budget by 2002, even if it means making some unpopular choices between federal programs, and expressed their thoughts on a variety of issues during a 90-minute meeting of the full conference committee.

"We decided we were going to make some tough decisions," said Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Budget Committee. "We were going to put politics on the back burner and put the country on the front burner."

AmeriCorps Funding

In other budget action:

  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education postponed the mark-up of its fiscal 1997 spending bill.
  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies passed a spending bill that would provide $365 million for the AmeriCorps national-service program. That is 9 percent below last year, but far from elimination--a step that was proposed and later voted down.
  • The Senate failed to collect the two-thirds majority to approve a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. It failed by three votes, 64-35.

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