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Budget Highlights Child Care, Juvenile Justice

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As in previous years, President Clinton released a budget wish-list last week that includes numerous child-friendly and health-oriented programs. But with a strong economy and a projected budget surplus, this year's plan is especially generous.

In addition to education, one of the biggest winners in Mr. Clinton's fiscal 1999 budget is child care. The president's proposed budget for the Department of Health and Human Services totals $380 billion, a 6 percent jump from last year.

The largest new initiative in the HHS budget is Mr. Clinton's proposed $21.7 billion, five-year child-care initiative that would provide subsidies, tax credits, and grants to expand the number of child-care programs nationwide and make it easier for working families to afford such care.

Described by Mr. Clinton as the "largest single national investment in child care in our nation's history," the plan includes a $7.5 billion increase in the Child Care and Development Block Grant to help low-income families or those moving off welfare pay for child care. The president's plan also includes a $3 billion grant project to improve the quality of child care, train providers in early-childhood development, and help states enforce safety standards. ("Clinton Proposes $22 Billion in New Child-Care Initiatives," Jan. 14, 1998.)

Mr. Clinton's plans must be approved by Congress, which will hold hearings on the budget in the coming months.

Head Start, Insurance

The HHS budget would also provide $4.7 billion for the Head Start preschool program in fiscal 1999, which begins Oct. 1. The program has fiscal 1998 funding of $4.3 billion. The goal is to serve 1 million children by 2002, up from 830,000 today.

"This is a solid foundation on which to build," said Helen Blank, a child-care specialist with the Children's Defense Fund, a Washington-based advocacy group. But Ms. Blank added that the plan fails to provide enough support to cover millions of school-age children who lack adult supervision after school.

Mr. Clinton also proposed giving HHS's Children's Health Insurance Program a $900 million increase over five years. The initiative works to inform parents of uninsured children that they may be eligible for assistance even if they earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

To help meet the president's target of reducing youth smoking by 60 percent in a decade, the proposed HHS budget would also earmark $100 million in 1999 to strengthen federal efforts to limit young people's access to tobacco products.

A large share of the president's overall $1.7 trillion budget plan for 1999 hinges on $65 billion in revenue that Mr. Clinton expects the federal government to receive through the settlement of a multistate lawsuit against major cigarette makers. Congress still must approve the settlement.

And the future of that settlement is precarious. Some Republican leaders in Congress, including Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, have balked at the idea of paying for child-care initiatives with the expected tobacco revenue.

"Proposing to pay for any program like this with tobacco dollars is a hollow promise," Joe Karpinski, a spokesman for Sen. Jeffords, said. "The money has not been appropriated."

Revamping Justice

Mr. Clinton's budget plan for the Department of Justice, released last week, also puts a distinct emphasis on the nation's young people. The president asked for nearly $21 billion--or a 4.4 percent increase--in the Justice Department budget for fiscal 1999.

As part of that, the department would increase spending on juvenile-justice programs--including anti-gang, violence-prevention, and school-violence initiatives--from $200 million this year to $270 million in 1999.

Taking the lead from congressional Republicans--who are considering legislation to restructure juvenile-justice programs and give states more flexibility in tailoring anti-youth-crime measures to local needs--the president has proposed revamping the department's office of juvenile justice.

Under the renamed office of juvenile-crime control and prevention, more money would go directly to states through block grants, with certain restrictions. For example, under a proposed $89 million grant program, states with promising new anti-crime projects could receive half of their funding more quickly than before through a block grant. The remaining funding would be provided if states show that they are complying with juvenile-justice laws.

Other Agencies

President Clinton's spending blueprint also calls for boosting the National Science Foundation budget by 10 percent in the next fiscal year--to $3.7 billion. The nsf's Educating for the Future project, which finances K-8 mathematics education and professional development of teachers, as well as research on education and training technologies, would grow by $107 million under the plan.

The National Endowment for the Humanities would receive $136 million to pay for preservation, education, and research programs--a $26 million increase from the current budget. Part of the funding would support a project to help schools and teachers incorporate new information technology into the classroom.

Mr. Clinton is also asking for $136 million, a $38 million increase, for the National Endowment for the Arts to pay for the agency's various arts and education enterprises.

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