Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Plans Savings in Medicare Leaders Outline Balanced-Budget Proposals

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Plans Savings in Medicare Leaders Outline Balanced-Budget Proposals

Article excerpt

Congressional Republicans unveiled long-promised plans to balance the federal budget on Tuesday, proposing big savings in Medicare, anti-poverty efforts, mass transit and scores of other programs.

Half a year after the GOP seized control of Congress on a campaign pledge to end relentless federal deficits, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., presented his panel with his blueprint for meeting that goal.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, disclosed details of his own proposal and planned committee debate for today.

Domenici's proposal claims to transform this year's $175 billion shortfall into a $2 billion surplus by 2002; Kasich's budget would be in balance that year, too. It would be the first time since 1969 that the government's ledger would emerge from the red.

To get there, Domenici would reduce projected spending by an unprecedented $961 billion over the next seven years. Kasich would go even further, producing about $1.4 trillion of savings. The key difference: Kasich included tax cuts, already approved by the House, totaling about $350 billion over seven years, along with additional cuts to pay for them.

Both plans rely largely on savings from Medicare, Medicaid and other benefit programs such as welfare and aid to farmers and veterans. Most of the other savings would come from cuts in general government programs ranging from road building to judges' salaries, and from the resulting drop in interest payments on federal borrowing.

His plan "makes hard choices and I make no apologies for that," Domenici told his committee.

Commenting on his own proposal, Kasich said, "This plan is designed to save the children of this country and make sure they have the same futures we had when we were born." Democrats Assail Plans

Democrats fired away from all angles.

"We don't need to get the balance that quickly," White House budget director Alice Rivlin said Tuesday on PBS's "MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour." "We're for deficit reduction, but not at the price of reducing investments in our future . . . and (we) don't think Medicare and Medicaid should be slashed in this way."

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt said, "We will not let the Republicans use Medicare as a congressional candy jar."

Gephardt, D-St. Louis County, repeated his vow not to negotiate with Republicans on changes in Medicare until they agree not to cut taxes. He said that the projected insolvency was seven years away and that he and other Democrats "will continue to work to keep the plan solvent."

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., is a member of the budget committee who said he agrees with Domenici's approach.

"It has some tough stuff in it; it pinches some programs I think are important," he said. "None of these things you'd want to do if you didn't have to. …

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