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Bush Budget Proposal Adds Homeland Security Funding

By Richard W. Stevenson

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

President Bush proposed a $2.4 trillion budget on Monday that would substantially increase funding next year for national security but would cut or strictly limit spending on most domestic programs and, on paper at least, put the government on a path of declining deficits.

The release of Bush’s budget plan for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 amounted to a statement of the White House’s election-year priorities, and it underscored the degree to which the administration’s policy and political focus is on fighting terrorism and building up the military.

The budget immediately drew fire from Democrats, who said that its deficit reduction claims were illusory and that it would shortchange a broad range of national priorities to pay for the tax cuts Bush has pushed through Congress over the past three years.

The plan called for an increase in military spending of 7 percent, or $26.5 billion, to $401.7 billion. That figure did not include money, which the administration said could be as much as $50 billion, for continued military operations next year in Iraq and Afghanistan, an expense the administration said it would specify and seek funding for only after the presidential election.

For domestic security programs, the White House said it wanted a budget increase of 9.7 percent, or $2.7 billion, to $30.5 billion.

By contrast, the budget proposed that the overall growth in spending on other government operations outside of Social Security and Medicare -- a category that encompasses everything from the national parks to the National Institutes of Health -- be held to one-half of 1 percent, or $2 billion, to $386 billion.

Bush’s stringent spending plan would make exceptions for some politically sensitive issues like education, but it would generally require his own party, as the majority in Congress, to cut, freeze or kill many programs in the months leading up to Election Day. It asked Congress to hold spending on new and improved highways to $256 billion over the next six years, $119 billion less than authorized by legislation proposed by Republicans in the House. It called for the elimination of 65 government programs, including grants to companies pursuing new technologies and an initiative to tear down dilapidated public housing, and outright cuts in 63 more, including federal assistance to local law enforcement and research into ecosystems.

The budget showed Bush making good on his pledge to cut the deficit in half within five years from its projected level this year of $521 billion to $364 billion next year and $237 billion in 2009.

But the White House did not provide any figures on what would happen to the deficit in the years beyond the next half-decade, when the president’s call to make permanent the 10-year tax cuts he pushed through Congress in 2001 and 2003 would show up in the budget. And to show he could meet the deficit reduction target in the next five years, the president left out of his calculations any money for a number of needs that both parties say will have to be met.

Democrats pointed in particular to Bush’s decision to delay requesting additional money to pay for the occupation of Iraq and continued military operations in Afghanistan, saying the failure to include any spending estimate for that purpose was just one example of fiscal gimmickry in the budget.