Federal File: Numbers game

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Child-, youth-, and education-related programs would get nearly one-half of a "modest investment package" of $48.8 billion over five years, under an option contained in a White House budget memorandum that incited controversy last week.

The memo written by Alice M. Rivlin, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, outlines a series of budget options for President Clinton for fiscal years 1996 through 2000.

Republicans seized on the Oct. 3 memo, titled "Big Choices," as election-year ammunition, noting its political overtones.

"These policies and the message they contain," wrote Ms. Rivlin in the 11-page memo's first paragraph, "are crucial to the record we will run on in 1996." She suggests packaging deficit reduction, targeted spending, and possible tax cuts with selected tax increases and limits on entitlements.

Her "modest investment package" for 1996 through 2000--half the size of a "bigger investment package" that was not detailed--proposes spending $6 billion more on Head Start beyond the fiscal 1995 level. That would allow for full funding by fiscal 2000, the memo says.

Ms. Rivlin also suggests an extra $1 billion for the Goals 2000 school-reform strategy, $2.3 billion more for the new Corporation for National and Community Service, and an additional $2 billion for the School-to-Work Opportunities Act and other training.

The memo also contains a proposed expenditure of $10 billion on welfare reform.

Ms. Rivlin's memo is marked "for handout and retrieval in meeting." But it was apparently leaked by a high-level Administration official.

Presidential aides downplayed the contents, saying they are a "catalogue" of ideas and not specific proposals.

But a leading G.O.P. operative, William Kristol, called the memo "cravenly hypocritical." He noted the President's attacks on House Republicans for their "Contract With America" and his charge that entitlement cuts would be needed if the balanced-budget amendment that would be voted on under the contract were passed.

"They've conducted such private deliberations at precisely the same time they are publicly (and falsely) accusing Republicans of plotting a similar assault on entitlements," Mr. Kristol, a former chief of staff to Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, said in a letter.

--Mark Pitsch

Vol. 14, Issue 09

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