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BUDGET BILL QUIETLY HIKED U.S. SPENDING MAJOR INCREASES VOTED DESPITE DEFICIT CRUNCH

Not much was known about the effect of the massive budget bill when it cleared Congress on a House vote at 7 a.m. Oct. 27.

Only one copy was on the House floor. Six weeks later, the Bush administration and Congress still are trying to figure it all out.

But analysts have pieced together some facts about one of the biggest single-year increases in spending in a decade:

Housing Secretary Jack F. Kemp, for instance, will be able to spend nearly $1.5 billion more than he had requested, most of it for public housing.

Transit systems will receive an added $111 million -- growth of 7 percent in a program that was anathema to the Reagan administration. Buffalo's Metro Rail will receive $420,000 of this money.

New York State will receive millions in new money for social programs from budget bills that it actually opposed in the last Congress.

The massive spending gain Congress approved in the face of the nation's most severe budget crisis is one of the
nation's "best-kept secrets," said David Keating, head of the National Taxpayers Union. Keating said his organization still is trying to get a handle on what Congress actually did.

Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., estimated the Democratic-controlled Congress increased discretionary spending by at least $20 billion a year. D'Amato, a member of the Senate's Appropriations Committee, called it the largest single increase since he and Ronald Reagan came to Washington in 1981.

Discretionary spending refers to grants and projects that Congress can withdraw without crippling central administration or cutting income supports for the sick, poor and elderly.

At first glance, all this new money appears to undermine Gov. Cuomo's argument that the state's fiscal crisis was caused by federal aid cutbacks.

Yet, even with these increases, U.S. aid to schools, mass transit and urban development, in real dollars, is less than half what it was a decade ago. The Reagan administration virtually banned the construction of public housing. Help from the federal government in most cases also triggers additional state costs because Congress increased requirements for local matching funds in the 1980s.

"This budget throws a spadeful of dirt into a massive hole that Washington has been digging with a steam shovel for a decade," Cuomo commented through spokesman Tom Conroy.

D'Amato sees it differently.

"If these increases had been resisted," D'Amato said, the government could have realized savings of more than $100 billion over five years. D'Amato said the projected record deficit of $250 billion in the federal fiscal year that will begin next Oct. 1 is being driven in large part by spending increases that could have been avoided.

Neil Strawser, spokesman for the Democrats on the House Budget Committee, said the money was part of a conscious effort "to give back," or compensate, some programs for Reagan-era budget cuts. The budget participants, he said, provided "something of an increase -- to meet needs that otherwise couldn't be met."

According to an analysis by Cuomo's Washington office, New York will get $18 million more in airport aid next year than it is now receiving. The state's allocation for highway improvements will increase by $125 million to $166 million.

This includes an estimated $37 million for improving Route 17 -- the Southern Tier Expressway -- in the home town of Rep. Amory Houghton, R-Corning, a House Budget Committee member who has been calling for restraint.

The willingness of the Bush administration and some GOP moderates in Congress to yield to Democrats' spending pressures is one reason for the continuing tension between House conservatives and the White House, said Tony Blankley, spokesman for House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

"The deal the negotiators made was (for an increase of) inflation plus 9 percent," Blankley said. The real powers in budget negotiations are not the congressional leaders, he said, but the chairmen of the appropriations committees -- Rep. Jamie Whitten, D-Miss., and Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

"Byrd told the negotiators that discretionary spending was the runt of the litter, and it's time to catch up," Blankley said. "You do not oppose Bob Byrd or Whitten. Try it, and your favorite project gets sidetracked."

This year's budget brawls left conservative Rep. Bill Paxon, R-Amherst, discouraged with the process. Paxon said he cast 49 votes in his first term that would reduce spending by $36 billion. Yet, he concedes that these votes have cast him in a negative light with some in his district.

"If people really understood what goes on in the appropriations process," Paxon said, "they'd be more disgusted with Congress than they are now. The argument that domestic spending was reduced in the 1980s is a lot of bull. It actually increased exponentially."

The biggest outlay will be highway aid, up more than $2.2 billion, or 18.3 percent. Allocation of money for roads is not an unmixed blessing for a state as hard-pressed as New York. Most of this money will have to be matched one for one by local and state funds.

State and local governments in New York also will have to dig down to match the increases in eligibility for Medicaid, the plan aimed at providing the poor with hospital and doctors' services. Medicaid spending for fiscal 1991, which started Oct. 1, will increase $5.7 billion, or 18.4 percent. New York will have to find another $1 billion to match its share of this program's growth.

Some of these costs stem from federal requirements that expand Medicaid coverage for certain children and elderly and were opposed by the National Governors' Association. Congress also ignored aggressive lobbying by New York and other states when it required them to extend Social Security coverage to all their employees not covered by a pension system. Congress' generosity will cost New York up to $40 million a year in added payroll taxes.

Neither the Democratic nor Republican experts have quite caught up with what happened the morning of Oct. 27.

But one aide in the White House Office of Management and Budget, speaking anonymously, acknowledged the Bush administration is not instructing the departments to use restraint in spending this new money.

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