Bush budget has mixed news for Missouri

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

WASHINGTON -- President Bush focused his budget for 2004 on restoring habitat for fish and wildlife that share the Missouri and Mississippi rivers with barge shipments.

But in order to spend the tens of millions of dollars he proposes for the environment, Bush would force cuts in other Army Corps of Engineers projects and require proof that their benefits outweigh the cost to taxpayers.

Bush is seeking $22 million to improve habitat for fish and wildlife along 735 miles of the lower reaches of the Missouri River, in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. He also wants $33 million for environmental restoration on the upper Mississippi in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Beyond those priorities, Bush wants to plow much of the corps' spending into reducing a construction backlog on existing projects of $23 billion and very little into new construction.

As a result, a controversial effort to close a huge gap in the lower Mississippi River levee in the Missouri Bootheel disappeared from the president's budget this year. The corps seeks to install two huge pumps and a steel gate to keep the Mississippi's waters in the river channel and out of thousands of acres of the Southeast Missouri floodplain.

"I'm not concerned or alarmed about that at all," said Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who is championing the St. Johns Bayou-New Madrid Floodway project. "It's very typical for the administration to way underfund Army Corps of Engineers projects. They always do, and we always restore it."

A staffer at the corps' headquarters in Washington, Kyle Jones, said there is no money for the project because there had been no construction on it for the past three years. To start construction, the corps would need certification from Missouri's water quality officials, who turned down the project late last year. The corps is appealing.

Bush's proposal for a $2.23 trillion federal budget includes some cuts in domestic programs to pay for tax relief, an expansion of Medicare and heightened security at home and abroad.

'A realistic number'

Emerson and other Missouri Republicans spoke warmly about the budget proposal, mentioning the president's request for $400 billion to overhaul Medicare, even though the president didn't offer details of his overhaul.

Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., called the Medicare increase "a realistic number."

"I'm pleased the budget had a lot to say about jobs, health care and defense, which are three of my big priorities," Talent said. "From what we can tell, Missouri fares pretty well from a defense standpoint."

Major employers in Missouri include Boeing Co. and others that do business with the Department of Defense, so Talent and the rest of the delegation keep an eye on military spending.

The administration's request includes $3.21 billion for 42 Boeing-made F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter jets, a Navy plane with an airframe built in St. Louis. Talent said he'll push on the Armed Services Committee for two additional Super Hornets, because Boeing's contract with the company calls on that number.

"If you end up buying significantly fewer planes, you could increase what they call the per-copy price," Talent said. "I'm not displeased with this 42. While it's not ideal, this is the first step of the process."

Highlights of the Bush budget

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Spending: $379.9 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +4.2 percent

Pay raises for service members would range from 2 percent to 6.3 percent.

Includes $245 million to maintain a scaled-down version of the air patrols over the United States that began Sept. 11, 2001, but makes no provision for the cost of continuing the war in Afghanistan or potential war against Iraq.

Overall, defense would account for 16 1/2 cents of every dollar in federal spending.DEPARTMENT OF

HOMELAND SECURITY

Spending: $26.7 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +5.1 percent (includes spending for agencies being rolled into the new department)

Calls for $373 million for border security, including radiation detectors and X-ray machines to inspect cargo containers.

Calls for $400 million to maintain a stockpile of vaccines to be used during a bioterrorist attack.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Spending: $27.4 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +11.6 percent

Would provide $646.7 million to enhance security equipment and pay for other upgrades at U.S. diplomatic posts and to hire 85 additional security professionals.

Seeks $18.8 billion for foreign assistance, including $4.4 billion in military aid and $2.5 billion in economic aid. This is an increase of $2.4 billion. The Middle East would get the most economic help, $1.6 billion. South Asia would get $395 million, including $150 million for Afghanistan.

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Spending: $53.1 billion

Percentage change from 2002: +5.6 percent.

Would increase spending by $1 billion, to $12.4 billion total, for Title I programs that provide remedial education to poor children.

Would increase spending by $1 billion, to $9.5 billion, for state grants to serve children with disabilities.

Would increase spending by $1.9 billion, to $12.7 billion, for Pell Grants, eliminating cash shortfall in this need-based college aid program. Maximum grant would remain $4,000.

Would eliminate 45 programs considered duplicative or ineffective, freeing $1.5 billion for Bush's priorities. Cut programs include literacy for prisoners, arts in education.

Would provide $756 million in school-choice programs, including vouchers, charter schools and magnet schools.

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Spending: $11.5 billion

Percentage change from 2003: -0.5 percent

Would increase enforcement of job safety and health standards by 2 percent, to $165.3 million. Overall spending for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would rise by 3 percent, to $450 million.

Would increase enforcement and fraud investigations into retirement and pension programs by nearly 10 percent.

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Spending: $23.4 billion.

Percentage change from 2003: +5.9 percent.

Would expand programs to develop clean coal technologies, safeguard nuclear materials, move ahead with a proposed nuclear waste site in Nevada, and spur development of hydrogen fuel cells.

Would spend $591 million, a 75 percent increase over what is pending in Congress for this year, to move ahead with development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Much of that money would go for getting a federal permit for the project sometime in 2004.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Spending: $17.7 billion

Percentage change from 2003: -3.3 percent

Proposed increase of $598.2 million for preventing and combating terrorism for FBI and other agencies.

FBI counterintelligence would be increased by $69.9 million and 583 positions, including 94 new agents. Another $60.6 million increase would go to the FBI's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force.HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Spending: $66.2 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +2.5 percent

Medicare: Would modernize Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit for some of the 41 million beneficiaries.

Medicaid: Would give states vast new authority to shape much of their health program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

Bioterrorism preparation: Spending would remain level at $3.6 billion, for medical research, safeguarding the food supply and upgrading state and local public health systems.

DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY

Spending: $11.4 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +3.5 percent

The IRS would get $429 million to continue a major overhaul of its computer system and $133 million to crack down on abusive tax schemes and tax shelters

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network would receive $57.6 million -- up nearly 14 percent from the president's 2003 request -- to help the government sever terrorists from their sources of financing and to combat money laundering.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Spending: $19.5 billion

Percentage change from 2003: -0.2 percent

Includes $678 million for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which checks meat and poultry at packing plants for bacteria that can cause food poisoning, such as E. coli. It would be a 10 percent cut from 2003. Also, the administration wants Congress to approve "user fees" to recover the cost of paying inspectors in plants if they work overtime.

The federal crop insurance program would see an 18 percent increase in spending over 2003.DEPARTMENT OF

TRANSPORTATION

Spending: $53.3 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +6 percent

Would increase federal aid to states for highway construction to $29.3 billion, 6 percent more than in 2003.

Proposes $900 million for Amtrak, less than the $1.2 billion the railroad's president says it needs to keep running.NASA

Spending: $15.5 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +3.1 percent

Budget developed before the Columbia disaster Saturday; likely to become the focus of close scrutiny in Congress.

Would initiate Project Prometheus to develop nuclear propulsion for high-peed space travel, to be used first to explore the moons of Jupiter.

Provides a modest increase for the space shuttle program, largely to extend the life of the shuttles.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Spending: $7.3 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +9 percent

Would raise administrative spending by nearly 8 percent to handle increase in applications for benefits.

Would add $795 million for information technology to improve public service through the Internet and automated phone systems. Electronic processing of disability claims expected to help reduce wait, now an average of 1,146 days, because of backlogs.

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

Spending: $4 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +0.8 percent

Would spend $145 million for environmental restoration projects in Florida's Everglades and $115 million for navigation in New York/New Jersey Harbor.

Would spend $98 million for hydropower and endangered species in the Columbia River and $73 million for navigation in the Ohio River.

EPA

Spending: $7.6 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +0.1 percent

Agency spending for Superfund toxic waste sites would increase by $150 million, enough for 10 to 15 more Superfund toxic waste site cleanups, officials say.

Would add $21 million in spending for enforcement activities, including hiring 100 more inspectors, but cut spending for general investigations by $3 million.

DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR

Spending: $10.6 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +3.5 percent

Would increase spending by $26 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2003.

As part of the department's budget, President Bush proposes authorizing oil and gas exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has been a deeply controversial centerpiece of his energy policy.FEDERAL ELECTION

COMMISSION

Spending: $50 million

Percentage Change from 2003: +11.1 percent

Highlights:

Would increase spending on staff by $3 million, to $35 million. That will let the commission add about 30 employees to the roughly 350 it now has.

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Spending: $841.5 million

Percentage change from 2003: +48 percent

Highlights:

Would increase spending on investigations and prosecutions of fraud by $78 million, to $282 million, in response to last year's wave of corporate and accounting scandals.

Spending on supervising and regulating the stock markets and brokerage firms would jump from $90.3 million to $131.6 million.

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

Spending: $28.1 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +10.6 percent

Highlights:

Would increase medical care and research spending by $2.62 billion, bringing its total to $26.2 billion.

Would increase spending on burial benefits by $12 million to help open four new national cemeteries and improve some of the existing 120 national cemeteries.

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

Spending: $5.4 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +5.2 percent

Highlights:

Would provide $662 million to the Bureau of Census for collection of timely economic and demographic information and to improve the design of the 2010 Census.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $3.5 million to develop and certify a standard using "biometric identifiers," such as fingerprints, facial patterns and eye patterns, that could be used to verify the identity of people applying for a U.S. visa or seeking to enter the country.

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Spending: $31.3 billion

Percentage change from 2003: +1.3 percent

Highlights:

Would provide an additional $113 million in block grants to state and local agencies for affordable housing to low-income families. The extra money would increase the program's overall budget to $2.2 billion. It's intended to compensate for the loss of a program that paid for the revitalization of severely distressed public housing.

Seeks $200 million to help provide down payments to about 40,000 low- and middle-income families who want to become first-time home buyers.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: