President Bush sent Congress a $2.57 trillion fiscal year 2006 budget plan Monday that seeks deep spending cuts across a wide swath of government, including cutting health care payments for poor people and veterans and trimming spending on the environment and education. The budget also includes a 9% funding cut for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's budget, although the agency's funding for global health initiatives, including HIV programs, is set to receive a 4.2% funding increase to $306 million. Funding for abstinence-only sex and HIV education for U.S. youths also is set to receive a $38 million funding increase in Bush's proposed budget, to $192.5 million. Funding for abstinence programs has increased 50% since 2004 under the Bush administration.
Other programs set for cuts include the Army Corps of Engineers; the Energy Department; several health programs under the Health and Human Services Department; and federal subsidies for the Amtrak passenger railroad. About one third of the programs being targeted for elimination are in the Education Department, including federal grant programs for local schools in such areas as vocational education, antidrug efforts, and Even Start, a $225 million literacy program. Overall, the Administration projected saving $8.2 billion in agriculture programs over the next decade, including trimming food stamp payments to the poor by $1.1 billion.
"It's budget that sets priorities," Bush said after a meeting with his cabinet. "It's a budget that reduces and eliminates redundancy. It's a budget that's a lean budget." Bush acknowledged that it would be difficult to eliminate popular programs, but he said programs must prove their worth. "I'm very optimistic," he added. The budget would eliminate or vastly scale back 150 government programs. It will likely spark months of contentious debate in Congress, where lawmakers will fight to protect their favored programs.
Democrats immediately branded the budget a "hoax" because it left out the huge future costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and did not include the billions of dollars that will be needed for Bush's number 1 domestic priority--overhauling Social Security. Democrats also complained that Bush was resorting to draconian cuts that would hurt the needy in order to protect his first-term tax cuts, which primarily benefited the wealthy. (AP, with additional reporting by Advocate.com)