Washington--The Senate last week approved a plan to reduce the federal deficit that would allow spending increases for education programs in the upcoming fiscal year.
The $142-billion “downpayment” on the deficit, which has the backing of President Reagan, was approved 62-37 on May 17 after moderate Republicans and Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee struck a bargain adding $2 billion for education, health, and environmental programs.
Under the original “Rose Garden” budget agreement, defense spending would have been increased 7.5 percent above the rate of inflation from fiscal 1984 to fiscal 1985, while spending for education and other domestic, non-entitlement, discretionary programs would have been frozen at current levels. That plan3would have set fiscal 1985 Education Department spending at about $15.4 billion.
After acknowledging that he did not have the votes to carry this plan, Senator Baker agreed to a compromise that will rescind $2 billion in funds already earmarked for the Synthetic Fuels Corporation and reprogram it for education and other social programs.
Senator Bill Bradley, Democrat of New Jersey, had planned to offer an amendment to the Administration-backed plan that would have boosted education spending by $1.95 billion in the upcoming fiscal year. He agreed not to bring it up, however, because he said it was his understanding that $1.3 billion of the $2 billion from the Synfuels account would be earmarked for education.
Debate before the vote, however, indicated uncertainty as to whether the full $1.3 billion would be added to the budget for education.
Senator Lawton E. Chiles, Democrat of Florida and ranking minority member on the Budget Committee, pointed out that in the appropriations process, education programs could be forced to compete with other nondefense discretionary programs singled out for spending increases in the President’s original budget request.
The Senate must now incorporate the provisions of the deficit-reduction plan into its first concurrent budget resolution for fiscal 1985. The House on April 5 passed a budget resolution that calls for $182 billion in deficit reductions and, according to lobbyists, assumes spending of $17 billion for the Education Department. Observers predict it will be difficult for House and Senate conferees to iron out the differences between their versions of the budget plan.--tm
A version of this article appeared in the May 23, 1984 edition of Education Week as Senate Budget Plan Would Allow Slight E.D. Hike