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On the chopping block, again

Many of the proposed budget cuts have survived earlier swipes of the axe, as lawmakers fight for their states' projects, constituents' jobs and their own prospects for reelection.

February 02, 2010|By Kathleen Hennessey

Reporting from Washington — President Obama has proposed cutting spending in 126 federal programs, promising a savings of $23 billion in fiscal 2011.

But many proposed cuts have survived the chopping block before, as lawmakers defended pet projects, constituents' jobs or their prospects for reelection.

The familiar programs on the list this year include the C-17 cargo jet, a program to restore polluted industrial sites, a program for reclaimed coal mines and various scholarship programs.

The repeat appearances demonstrate how hard it is to cut spending.

On Monday, the president urged lawmakers to take a "fresh look" at some of the proposed cuts. He highlighted an Interior Department program for abandoned coal mines that aids a handful of states. The proposed cut would save $115 million in fiscal 2011.

The cuts in mine grants never went anywhere last year.

"We will do everything in our power to stop this attempted robbery again," Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.) said Monday.

Others on the termination list also have ready-made support. A website for Boeing's C-17 cargo plane notes that the program employs more than 30,000 people, with concentrations in Southern California, where the plane is made, and Missouri. A defense spending bill in December included $2.5 billion to buy 10 C-17s that the Pentagon did not request.

The budget would trim $18 million by eliminating the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative, a Housing and Urban Development industrial site cleanup program that President George W. Bush also attempted to cut. The administration says larger programs address the same needs more efficiently.

Dozens of programs in the Homeland Security and Education departments would be consolidated, while others would be eliminated.

Academic awards named after Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Christopher Columbus would get cut, along with a $1-million scholarship program honoring B. J. Stupak, the late son of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). Bush also tried to eliminate the Stupak program, to no avail.

The president also wants to eliminate funding for the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert. The decision makes good on an often-repeated campaign promise and is a major step toward killing the project after years of powerful opposition from within the state. The move would save $197 million in fiscal 2011.

The proposed budget also cuts a program that builds healthcare facilities, saving $338 million. The administration said the Department of Health and Human Services program was not subject to competitive bidding and was redundant.

kathleen.hennessey@

latimes.com

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