Washington--The Senate has approved legislation that would raid federal agencies’ discretionary programs, including education programs, to pump an additional $1.7 billion into anti-drug efforts.
According to Congressional estimates, this approach could cost the Education Department as much as $19 million.
The provision was attached to S 1352, which would reauthorize defense programs, on a 90-to-9 vote last month. The corresponding House bill, HR 2461, contains no such language. The provision’s fate will be decided by a conference committee.
“This is not the ideal way to fund the drug bill, and I want to let everyone know that I hope ... there will be a better way found,” said Senator Sam Nunn, Democrat of Georgia, the provision’s sponsor. “But this will do the job, and this does say that drugs and fighting drugs are the top priority.”
The bill would authorize the President to skim funds across the board from all discretionary programs, both defense and domestic, that have unobligated funds as of Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 1989. Those are funds that have been appropriated for a program but not spent or promised to a particular grantee.
The provision requires that each program’s cut be proportionate to its total share of unobligated funds. Mr. Nunn said the Congressional Budget Office estimates there would be a total of $166 billion in unobligated funds to draw from.
Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the subcommittee overseeing education appropriations, said student-aid and special-education programs would have the most unobligated funds among education programs, which he said had a total of $1.8 billion unobligated at the end of fiscal 1988. If $1.7 billion were to be raised under the provision, about $19 million would be taken from that $1.8 billion.
A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 1989 edition of Education Week as Anti-Drug Measure Targets E.D. Funds