House, Senate Pass Budget Blueprint for 2000 and Beyond
Congress last week approved a compromise budget blueprint that falls $1.1 billion short of Senate Republicans' original plan for spending on education and related programs. The nonbinding plan for fiscal 2000 sparked criticism from education groups and the Clinton administration.
The House, by a largely party-line 220-208 vote, and the Senate, by a party-line vote of 54-44, passed the final budget resolution shortly after conferees hammered out differences between the chambers' original plans. ("Critics Say Budget Plans May Be Unrealistic," April 7, 1999.)
Republican leaders hailed the spending plan as allowing Congress to protect Social Security, cut taxes, and increase defense and education spending.
The measure calls for setting aside $51.1 billion in discretionary spending in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 for the budget category that includes education, training, employment, and social services.
That figure represents a middle ground between the $52.2 billion Senate proposal and the $50.1 billion House plan. Critics, however, pointed out that the final plan is $200 million below the $51.3 billion the Congressional Budget Office estimated would be required to maintain spending for that budget category at the current level. Overall, mandatory and discretionary spending would total $66.3 billion in fiscal 2000 for the category.
"This budget plan does not make the needed investments in education that are essential for our children's success in the 21st century," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in a statement.
The budget resolution is a nonbinding document that provides an overview of Congress' intended spending plans for the coming year and over the next decade. Congressional appropriators still must decide separately how much to earmark for specific programs.
Notably, the House-Senate conference committee members excluded details on overall K-12 education spending that were spelled out in the original House and Senate plans. The Senate had earmarked $24.1 billion for K-12 and vocational education; the House fell $2.1 billion shy of that, at $22 billion. The only education detail in the final measure is language indicating a $500 million increase for special education.
Education Department officials said the GOP budget plan would set spending $2.9 billion below President Clinton's request for education and related programs. But the administration's figure assumes the inclusion of $1.9 billion of "forward funded" money in the president's plan that would be appropriated in fiscal 2000 but spent in fiscal 2001. With that money included, the administration's budget would allot $54 billion for education and related programs in fiscal 2000.
Meanwhile, the Washington-based Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying group, said the budget resolution recommends insufficient funding to support increases for K-12 programs without deep cuts in other related areas.
Vol. 18, Issue 32, Page 22