Obama likens budget to family pocketbook choices
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he is making difficult cuts in the nation's budget to allow needed spending increases in education, technology and public works projects.
In a broad preview of his administration's blueprint for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, Obama says the combination of cuts and new spending will result in an overall freeze in annual domestic spending for the next five years.
"This budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future," the president said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. The White House plans to release his budget on Monday.
With public opinion turning against increased spending, Obama is making a concerted sales pitch to cast his initiatives as fiscally prudent.
But efforts to tame deficits while adding dollars to selected projects come as the government faces a projected $1.5 trillion deficit this budget year. Republicans are demanding greater deficit reduction efforts and members of the House GOP say they want to cut the current 2011 budget year by $61 billion.
Obama, in his address, recounted the struggles of a Missouri family — David and Brenda Breece — who have faced difficult financial times by living frugally so they can continue to pay for their daughter's college tuition.
"So Brenda and her husband know what they can do without," Obama said. "But they also know what investments are too important to sacrifice."
The White House projects that the five-year freeze will save $400 billion over 10 years. Cost-saving measures include a two-year freeze on wages for civilian federal workers. The budget also would make cuts in some cherished programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which could be trimmed in half — by about $2.5 billion. The Energy Department plans to propose cutting the Office of Fossil Energy by 45 percent, or $418 million.
The Pentagon's budget would see reductions of $78 billion.
Obama said the government also is getting rid of unused government-owned buildings and he said he would also save money by vetoing legislation that contains earmarks, congressionally inserted spending measures for special projects.
At the same time, Obama has proposed new spending initiatives. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday the administration is looking to spend on new early learning programs, on educational overhauls and on making college more affordable.
Obama also has a plan to raise $30 billion over 10 years by auctioning off space on the radio spectrum to commercial wireless carriers. The money would be used to develop a $10 billion national broadband network for public safety agencies and $5 billion for infrastructure to help rural areas access high-speed wireless.
And he wants to spend $53 billion over six years on high-speed rail.
"I'm proposing that we invest in what will do the most to grow the economy in the years to come," he said.
In the Republican address, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, argued Obama's reduction plans are too timid.
"The president's proposal for a freeze in government spending might give the White House a nice talking point," he said. "But it is a totally inadequate solution to our nation's spending problems."
Hatch, who is facing re-election this year, is eager to display a tough line on fiscal issues to dissuade a strong tea party challenge like the one that defeated his former Utah colleague, Republican Sen. Bob Bennett.
Hatch called for an overhaul of the tax code, fewer regulations, the start of a debate about changing Social Security and Medicare, and new trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
"The bottom line is we are a nation working on borrowed time; we have to make some significant changes in order to compete," he said.