President Bush proposed a $2.23 trillion spending plan for next year -- built on record budget deficits -- that calls for a steep increase in defense spending, further tax cuts and a freeze on money for domestic programs.
The fiscal 2004 budget that Bush is recommending to Congress would devote to national defense 60 percent of the $28 billion increase the White House envisions in the parts of federal spending that are set each year -- even without including money for an increasingly likely war against Iraq. On the other hand, the White House wants to pare many functions of government and eliminate some.
The budget calls for reductions in vocational training and after-school services, and would eliminate 45 programs in the Department of Education alone. It would also reduce aid for rural development, phase out a Clinton administration effort to put 100,000 new police officers on the nation's streets -- a Bush target in the past -- and eliminate a decade-old program that has demolished and replaced dilapidated public housing.
Bush included in his budget several proposals that would recast the federal role in some of the government's best-known services, including health insurance programs for elderly and poor Americans and Amtrak, which would be shifted partly to the private sector at greater cost to states. The plan also ratchets up the administration's attempt to gauge the effectiveness of government, warning that programs will be "overhauled or retired" if the White House does not deem them worthwhile.
The plan relies on budgetary devices the administration has sought to use before -- notably an increase in user fees, such as new charges for some veterans' medical care and for meat and poultry producers that must undergo food safety inspections. The plan proposes to lean more heavily on private companies in the delivery of government services and to give states vast new control over some federal programs, such as the preschool program Head Start.
Congress has the final say over how -- and how much -- government money is spent. The White House's budget documents will form the basis for partisan negotiations that will continue at least until Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
-- Mike Allen and Amy Goldstein