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National Perspective : LEGISLATION : The Old Budget Blues

October 03, 1995

Sunday marked the federal government's new fiscal year and, as usual, Congress and the President have not produced a new budget. A shutdown was averted last week when Congress approved a temporary measure to keep the federal government running. Meanwhile, much work remains. Here's where the major spending provisions stand:

Q & A

The current flurry of congressional activity raises many questions, including:

Q: At what stage is Congress in the budget process?

A: By this time every year, Congress is supposed to have passed two major packages:

1. Appropriation bills funding the day-to-day operation of the government.

2. Something known as a reconciliation bill that covers all other spending, including the big mandatory benefit programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

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Q: How close are they?

A: Not every, only 10 of the 13 bills have passed both the House and the Senate. President Clinton hasn't signed any of them and has threatened to veto as many as eight measures because of spending cuts he considers too severe.

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Q: Without a budget, how will government services continue?

A: The White House and Congress agreed to a special measure to keep the government operating while both sides try to reach a compromise. This "continuing resolution" will keep the government afloat until Nov. 13.

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Q: Is a budget for the 1996 fiscal year all that Congress has to pass?

A: No. In addition to the budget, Congress also has to raise the limit on the national debt. If it doesn't, the government can't borrow any more money and will not be able to pay its bills.

CALENDAR

NOV. 13: "Continuing resolution" expires

NOV. 15: Probable debt limit deadline

STATUS OF APPROPRIATIONS BILL

Commerce, Justice, State: Slashes Commerce, State departments. Total 1995 budget: $26.7 billion. Passed House. Passed House. President has threatened veto.

Defense: Restores funding for B-2 Stealth bomber. Total 1995 budget: $245 billion. Passed House. Passed House. Conference committee version rejected by House. President has threatened veto.

Interior: Cuts Interior Department programs, slashes arts and humanities endowments by 40%. Total 1995 budget: $13.5 billion. Passed House. Passed House. Conference committee version rejected by House. President has threatened veto.

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education: Cuts education and job training programs, allows federal contractors to hire replacements for strikers, expands federal limits on abortion funding, reins in powers of workplace regulators. Total 1995 budget: $244.9 billion. Passed House. President has threatened veto.

Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency: Slashes HUD budget by about one-fifth, EPA by about one-quarter, limits EPA regulatory powers. Total 1995 budget: $81.9 billion. Passed House. Passed House. President has threatened veto.

How Spending Would Change From 1995 (in billions)

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House 1996 Senate 1996 1995 Total Change Total Change Commerce, Justice, State $26.7 $27.6 $0.9 $26.5 -$0.2 Defense $245.0 - - - - Interior $13.5 - - - - Labor, HHS, Education $244.9 $256.1 $11.2 $259.0 $14.1 VA, HUD, EPA $81.9 $79.7 -$2.2 $81.0 -$0.9

Conf. Committee Total Change Commerce, Justice, State Defense $243.3 -$1.7 Interior $12.1 -$1.4 Labor, HHS, Education VA, HUD, EPA

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STATUS OF RECONCILIATION BILL

Consists of everything not in the appropriation bills.

Welfare: Ends the guarantee of benefits for Aid to Families with Dependemt Children, gives states authority to shape the program, requires able-bodied recipients to work after two years. Saves $66 billion (Senate version) to $102 billion (House version) over seven years. Passed House. Passed Senate.

Medicare: Trims reimbursements to doctors and hospitals, increases monthly premiums for Part B (doctor bill insurance), seeks to coax recipients into health maintenance organizations. Saves $270 billion over seven years.

Medicaid: Eliminates the federal guarantee of health insurance for eligible poor persons, turns over program authority to states, cuts federal nursing home regulation. Saves $182 billion over seven years.

Tax cuts: Provides $500-per-child tax credit, expands individual retirement accounts, reduces taxes on capital gains. Costs $245 billion over seven years. Passed House. President has threatened veto.

Miscellaneous tax provisions: Reduces earned income tax credit for working poor, trims some corporate tax subsidies and extends others.

Debt ceiling: Extends government's borrowing authority beyond October.

Sources: House Appropriations Committee, Congressional Quarterly, Associated Press

Compiled by JOEL HAVEMANN and CHRIS ERSKINE / Los Angeles Times

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