A Look Inside the Details of the Budget Request
February 5, 2008; Wall Street Journal
Plan Scales Back Fund To Fight AIDS Abroad
President Bush continues to scale back his ambition for his signature foreign-aid
program, the Millennium Challenge Account. When he announced the initiative early in
his administration, he said it would provide up to $5 billion a year in grants to the most-
deserving poor countries -- those that embrace free markets, honest government and
investments in education and health.
But the president has consistently requested less than he promised, and Congress has
given him less than he requested. For 2009, Mr. Bush is asking for $2.3 billion, enough to
provide packages to Ukraine, Moldova, Jordan, Timor-Leste and Malawi. In his last
budget, Mr. Bush asked for $3 billion, a sum that Congress cut nearly in half,
appropriating $1.54 billion for the current fiscal year.
--Michael M. Phillips
FBI Spending to Rise; Police Grants Squeezed
President Bush's final budget for the Justice Department follows the post-9/11 pattern:
spending heavily for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its counterterrorism work
and sharply cutting local law-enforcement funds.
Under the blueprint for fiscal 2009, which begins Oct. 1, 2008, spending for the FBI
would grow 9% to $7.11 billion from $6.51 billion. That's 17.6% above the FBI's actual
spending in 2007. To offset the increase, many of the grants to local police, including
Edward Byrne discretionary grants and Justice assistance grants, were chopped to $813
million for FY2009, nearly 70% below the $2.68 billion spent in 2007.
Unless Congress steps in to restore the funding, local law-enforcement agencies will turn
to cash-strapped state, county and local governments. And if that doesn't work, local
police departments will likely be forced to transfer officers from drug task forces and
other specialized units to regular duties.
Anticipating an acceleration of the number of federal prisoners, the budget includes a
small increase for the Bureau of Prisons after a one-year reduction. The budget estimates
that the prison population will grow about 5% to 210,000.
Budget Seeks Revamp of Washington Schools
In a parting kiss to the nation's capital, President Bush would offer $33 million in new
funds to help overhaul the District of Columbia's struggling public-education system.
In total, the president would spend $157 million on the city, well above the $115 million
enacted for fiscal 2008. Mr. Bush's budget offers $74 million for public education in the
city, 80% more than the $41 million for the current fiscal year.
The budget offers funding increases for the District of Columbia's public schools in line
with Mr. Bush's free-market approach to education. It would fund a new pay-for-
performance teacher incentive program, and it would increase the D.C. Opportunity
Scholarship program, increasing scholarships for students who want to attend private
high schools to $12,000 from $7,500. It would index future scholarship amounts to
inflation to better reflect students' actual costs.
In the year since he has taken office, Mayor Adrian Fenty has been focused on
overhauling the district's public schools by putting oversight directly under his control,
closing 23 schools and restructuring others.
The Bush budget also includes one-time additions for education reform, totaling $20
million. They include $3.5 million to help hire and train principals and other school
leaders, $7 million to intervene in low-performing schools and develop better programs,
and $9.5 million toward school data reporting.
The added funding for the city doesn't stop at education. The budget provides an
additional $12 million more for planning and security costs related to the district's unique
role as the nation's capital -- spurred largely by the cost of the 2009 presidential
inauguration, said Dan Tangherlini, city administrator and deputy mayor.
--Anne Marie Chaker
Proposed Cuts Anger Road, Airport Advocates
Funding for the Department of Transportation would be cut under the president's plan,
despite rising concerns about deteriorating roads, bridges and airports.
Details were fuzzy, since the president's proposal called for cutting nearly $6 billion from
the DOT but the department outlined a slimmer $2 billion decline. Transportation groups
asked Congress to ignore the White House and increase transportation spending.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials decried the
White House plan to borrow money from an account devoted to mass transit as a way to
alleviate a looming shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, calling it a "rob Peter to pay
"We believe Congress...will propose a better solution," said John Horsley, executive
director of the highway and transportation group.
The National Association of Railroad Passengers seethed over a proposed 34% cut in
Amtrak funding amid "rising gas prices, concerns about the environment" and the
Senate's approval of a bill raising appropriations for passenger rail. "Once again," said
Ross Capon, the consumer group's executive director, "Congress will be called on to
provide adequate funds for intercity passenger trains."
The head of a trade group representing airports lambasted a proposal to slash "airport
improvement" grants but expressed confidence that the administration's plan to trim
funding for "essential air service" to small communities would go nowhere on Capitol
Hill. "It's absolutely popular in Congress," said Greg Principato, president of Airports
Council International-North America.
Despite the chilly reception likely awaiting many proposals, administration officials stuck
to their guns. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters spoke of the need to "hold the line"
on spending and give taxpayers the "best value" for their transportation dollars.
Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell gave a terse defense of the administration's
decision to recycle a reauthorization proposal that failed last year in Congress. "There are
no changes," he said.
Energy Proposals Bank on Breakthroughs
On the energy front, funding research into "clean coal" initiatives, licensing new nuclear
power plants and doubling the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve are all on the
At the same time, the administration proposes cutting money on a program that attempts
to reduce low-income Americans' energy bills by weatherproofing their homes. With
energy costs rising and the economy teetering, a fight over the issue with Democrats in
Congress appears likely.
Department of Energy spokeswoman Megan Barnett said money spent on weatherization
"competes with key investments" that support the development of clean-energy
technologies, and that the administration's proposal is more focused on supporting
breakthroughs in energy-efficient appliances, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and
cellulosic ethanol, among other technologies.
Critics noted, however, that the DOE's own Web site refers to its Weatherization
Assistance Program as "this country's longest-running, and perhaps most successful
energy efficiency program," having served 5.5 million low-income families during the
past 30 years.
In other areas of energy policy, Mr. Bush's budget makes some debatable assumptions. It
assumes that the first oil and gas lease sale in the coastal plain of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge will be held in 2010, and that the sale will generate around $7 billion in
revenue -- money that would be split 50-50 between the federal government and the state
of Alaska, with the federal share "directed to reducing the budget deficit."