Panel Agrees on Amount To Be Divvied Up in '95 Spending Bill

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Washington

The House Appropriations Committee agreed last week that members of the spending panel that has jurisdiction over education and social-service programs will have about $70 billion in discretionary budget authority to work with as they draft a fiscal 1995 spending bill.

That is roughly $2.8 billion more than the amount allocated to the subcommittee last year, but about $1.7 billion less than President Clinton included in his budget for those programs, according to an aide to Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., who took over as the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee after Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., died a few months ago. (See Education Week, April 6, 1994.)

The agreement was reached earlier in the week by the chairmen of the 13 appropriations subcommittees and then approved by a voice vote of the full committee.

In presenting the allocations, Mr. Obey set a somber tone by stating: "The light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off until further notice.''

Education was one of the few departments in the federal government to receive a boost in the President's proposed fiscal 1995 budget, which included a $1.7 billion increase in the department's discretionary spending over 1994, much of it proposed for new Administration programs.

But those plans may fall victim to tight discretionary-spending caps imposed under the 1990 budget accord.

An aide to Rep. Neal Smith, D-Iowa, said that it would be "impossible'' to approve the President's proposed increases, such as a $700 million request for the new Goals 2000: Educate America Act, without making additional spending cuts elsewhere--above and beyond the $639 million in education cuts suggested in the Administration's proposed budget.

The Squeeze Tightens

Mr. Smith has headed the panel since the death of Mr. Natcher, who was chairman of that subcommittee as well as the full committee. Mr. Smith is expected to be officially designated the subcommittee chairman soon.

Lawmakers have warned the education community all year that the caps will significantly depress spending. (See Education Week, March 30, 1994.)

"This is not going to be pleasant,'' said Susan Frost, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding. "We have more at stake this year, so you have more to lose.''

Spending was further squeezed by a provision of the fiscal 1995 budget resolution, which received final approval by the Senate last week on a 53-to-46 vote. The resolution is a blueprint recommending funding for broad categories, which appropriators follow in funding specific programs.

The provision in question reduced the existing budget caps to achieve a $13 billion reduction in outlays over five years. Outlays, or the amount actually spent in a given fiscal year, are what is "counted'' in determining whether the budgetary caps have been exceeded, rather than budget authority, or the total spending authorized by an appropriations bill.

The provision requires $500 million in outlay cuts for fiscal 1995.

In addition, the Congressional Budget Office earlier this year had estimated that Mr. Clinton's 1995 budget exceeded the existing spending caps by $3.1 billion in outlays. Negotiations between lawmakers and the Office of Management and Budget resolved some of that difference with technical changes, but the remaining discrepancy forced appropriators to further reduce the spending called for in the budget resolution.

Some of the cuts were absorbed by each of the 13 appropriations subcommittees, according to aides.

It was unclear how that scaling-back might affect education programs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee could start work on its subcommittee allocations as early as this week.

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