WASHINGTON — President Clinton is preparing to announce about $15 billion in additional budget cuts, ranging from an early retirement "buyout" offer for federal employees to a politically risky plan to close more than 1,000 agricultural field offices, senior White House officials said Tuesday.
The new round of budget reductions, to be unveiled the last week of October, stems from a pledge the President made in August to moderate Democrats that he would find more spending cuts to offset the tax increases in his economic program, sources said.
To make good on his promise, Clinton will rely almost exclusively on potential savings highlighted by the White House "reinventing government" report prepared by Vice President Al Gore, officials said. Virtually all of the savings from the proposed cuts, which would be spread over five years, would go for deficit reduction. This means that the Administration could exceed the deficit-reduction targets it forecast in the budget approved by Congress this summer.
Clinton met with senior advisers Tuesday at the White House to decide which proposals from the Gore task force should be included in the package to be sent to Congress late next week or the week after. Officials said the cuts will "touch every department" in the government.
The White House plans to push for quick congressional action this fall on reductions in the budget and is expected to work closely on the effort with the group of moderate Democrats who had agreed to vote for the President's budget only after winning his promise that he would seek further savings this year.
One knowledgeable source said the package will total "between $10 billion and $20 billion, probably in the middle of that range." Although the Administration hopes to choose those cuts with the best chance of congressional approval, many are likely to be proposals that have failed in the past. For example, it will include the President's earlier recommendation to eliminate honey subsidies, an idea already rejected by Congress this year.
Clinton hopes to impose some of the cuts on the fiscal 1994 budget, which took effect Oct. 1, officials said. The remainder will be proposed for the fiscal 1995 budget.
"We are going to be using some of the centerpieces of the reinventing government report," a senior White House official said. "We are looking to pick out the most attractive package, trying to scrub the savings proposals and get things that can pass. We don't want this to get bogged down by things that will attract strong opposition."
Not all of the savings identified in the September report by the reinventing government task force will be used for this deficit-reduction package.
Instead, the Administration will reserve some of the spending cut proposals included in Gore's National Performance Review to make room in the 1995 budget for boosting spending on preferred programs, mainly public works "investment" initiatives.
Those programs were starved for funds in Clinton's first budget by congressional demands for more spending cuts and greater deficit reduction. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that in this year's budget, the Administration won funding for only about 62% of Clinton's "public investments"--the centerpiece of his 1992 campaign agenda.
A broad employee buyout program to reduce the government's payroll may not yield savings right away, and the Administration is still working on how to structure the buyout to make it attractive and cost-effective.
"We have to work out a buyout if we are going to meet our target of reducing the federal work force by 250,000," the goal set by the National Performance Review, a senior White House official said.