Proposals for Domestic Spending in 2009

Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More School Vouchers, Fewer Programs

President Bush would freeze the Education Department's discretionary spending at $59.2 billion, cutting or consolidating dozens of programs while expanding school vouchers and restoring funding for a No Child Left Behind reading initiative that Democratic lawmakers slashed.

The budget would add $300 million for Pell Grants for Kids, a new voucher program aimed at giving low-income students in struggling schools aid to help them switch to private schools. It also would provide $1 billion for Reading First, up from $393 million that Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year. The reading program has been beset by allegations of conflicts of interest.

Some Democrats and education groups contended that the budget would shortchange schools of money needed to carry out the six-year-old No Child Left Behind law and such other priorities as career and technical education. Democrats also attacked the voucher proposal.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the budget would cut "ineffective" and duplicative programs to allow a nearly 3 percent increase in funding for poor schools. The budget would nearly double, to $200 million, funding to help states and localities develop teacher merit-pay plans. It also would add $2.6 billion to Pell Grants for low-income college students, raising the maximum award to $4,800.

-- Maria Glod

A Decrease for the EPA; a Boost for NASA

The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed discretionary budget would decrease by $330 million from fiscal 2008 to $7.1 billion, with significant drops in spending on clean-water projects. The proposal calls for an overall decrease of almost $600 million from EPA spending in 2007 and the elimination of five programs.

The proposed NASA discretionary budget would increase by 1.8 percent, to $17.6 billion -- with new funds to restore Earth science projects that had been shelved. The agency said the additional money would also allow it to finish building the international space station in 2010, retire the space shuttle fleet and have a new spacecraft ready to launch by the spring of 2015.

"This increase demonstrates the president's commitment to funding the balanced priorities he set forth for the agency in space exploration, Earth and space science, and aeronautics research," said Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.

But Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, said the budget appears to shortchange the agency. "It unfortunately appears to be a 'business-as-usual' budget that does little to address the significant challenges NASA is facing," he said in a statement. "It continues the Administration's practice of underfunding the agency."

The budget also calls for an increase of 14 percent in the National Science Foundation's discretionary budget over the allocation in 2008, including big increases for nanotechnology research and for advanced supercomputing and networking.

-- Marc Kaufman

A New Offer on Insurance for Kids

President Bush has made Congress a counteroffer on expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP. His budget would increase spending on the popular program, which offers subsidized health insurance to children of the working poor, by nearly $20 billion over the next five years.

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