Senate, House Spending Targets Differ

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WASHINGTON--The Senate Appropriations Committee has set a spending ceiling of $39.4 billion for discretionary education, health, and labor programs, $1 million less than proposed by the Reagan Administration and $8 million less than its House counterpart is expected to propose.

The panel divided available funds among its subcommittees May 13, allotting the subcommittee overseeing the departments of labor, health and human services, and education a $1.3-billion increase in discretionary spending authority from fiscal 1988. Education programs make up more than half the discretionary spending in the subcommittee's purview.

Although the House Appropriations Committee has not yet made its subcommittee allocations official, Congressional sources said the counterpart House subcommittee was working with a $40.2-billion figure.

Meanwhile, budget conferees were inching closer to agreement last week on a spending plan that aides and lobbyists say could allot more to the spending category that includes education programs.

Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, said she hoped a favorable budget resolution, or pressure from dissatisfied senators, would induce the Senate appropriations panel to alter its allocations.

But other sources also said the agreement would probably come too late to influence the appropriations process.

"It's necessary as a formality, but I'm not sure it's going to have any effect at all,'' a Senate appropriations aide said.

Appropriators usually use the resolution as a guide in dividing up funds among subcommittees, which earmark money for specific programs.

Complications Ahead

The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the $39.4-billion figure, proposed by Senator Dennis DeConcini, Democrat of Arizona, on a 13-10 vote.

A plan more favorable to education interests offered by Senator Lawton Chiles, Democrat of Florida and the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee chairman, was defeated, 11 to 14. The Chiles plan would have allotted his subcommittee $40.2 billion in discretionary funds to work with, the same amount reportedly allotted to his House counterpart.

A third plan--offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey--which would have set the subcommittee's funding at $39.9 billion, failed on a 5-14 vote.

Ms. Frost and appropriations aides noted that the low allocation makes it virtually impossible for Mr. Chiles's panel to fund all the increases requested by the Education Department without agreeing to many of the cuts also included in E.D.'s budget proposal.

"Unless education gets most of the increase allotted for the [Labor-H.H.S.-Education] bill, the education total is going to fall below what we have been talking about as adequate,'' Ms. Frost said.

Since the counterpart House subcommittee is working within a higher ceiling, its education-spending total could be higher, and the final figure to emerge from conference negotiations could exceed that approved by the Senate. But a large difference would set up a complicated negotiation between the House and Senate that would involve transferring funding between subcommittees.

If the Congress follows through on legislators' pledges to pass individual appropriations bills rather than an omnibus continuing resolution, such a transfer would be logistically and politically difficult.--JM

Vol. 07, Issue 35

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