Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Data Add Funds to Budget Formulas Budget Office Finds Extra $135 Billion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Data Add Funds to Budget Formulas Budget Office Finds Extra $135 Billion

Article excerpt

The White House and Republicans in Congress were handed a $135 billion windfall on Monday, newfound money available for working out a balanced budget.

The funds derive from greater-than-expected economic growth over the past few months and other technical factors, Republicans said. Congressional Budget Office officials met with GOP budget negotiators Monday afternoon to go over the details.

Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the House Republican whip, suggested that some of the money could be allocated to Medicare, agriculture, education and other programs that Democrats claim were shortchanged in the GOP budget bill that President Bill Clinton vetoed last week.

DeLay, who made his comments during a lunch with reporters, said Republicans would seek to work closely with a pivotal block of conservative Democrats in fashioning the next balanced budget proposal.

In addition, he said, Republicans would probably have to yield to Clinton's demand for preserving his new national service program, as well as low-income energy assistance. These programs "might be areas where we have to spend," he said, despite a yearlong GOP drive to end them.

As to the latest CBO projections, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said negotiators have "something to work with." He said Republicans would attempt to craft a "more attractive" proposal in the next several days.

The optimism was tempered by a CBO finding that most of the additional funds would be available in the next five years, but almost none in 2001 and 2002. Any changes must be crafted to avoid throwing the plan out of balance in the seventh year. No `Sugar Plums'

Democrats said the bubble would complicate efforts to reach a budget compromise. "We've got a long, long way to go," said Sen. James Exon, D-Neb., who cautioned against believing that the CBO report was the economic equivalent of "sugar plums" at Christmas time.

CBO analysts said the outlook for interest rates and inflation had improved from its most recent forecast last spring, although they added that their predictions for economic growth were not as large as before. …

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