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Boxer afraid budget will ‘lead us down a dangerous path'

February 28, 2001|By ERIKA BUCK, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON — California legislators from different sides of the political aisle had decidedly different responses to President Bush's budget plan, which he presented to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer approved of some of Bush's proposals, including those for a literacy program and increased funding for health research, but said his plan would ‘‘lead us down a dangerous path.''

‘‘It is time that we learn from our past mistakes,'' said Boxer. ‘‘America tried this plan before in 1981 (during the Reagan administration) and it led to a period of economic recession that my state of California will never forget.''

She objected to Bush's proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut, calling it ‘‘neither compassionate nor conservative.''

Bush's tax plan would give a disproportionate amount of the benefits to the wealthy, Boxer said. At the same time, she said, the plan would endanger areas such as Medicare, education and funding for community police. She said the plan would not pay down enough of the national debt. The president proposed to pay down $2 trillion of the projected $3.2 trillion debt over 10 years.

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Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who represents Imperial County, supports Bush's proposed $5.7 billion increase for pay, housing, benefits and health care for the military. Still, the increased funding would not erase the 11 percent pay gap between the military and the private sector over the next year, Hunter said.

He supports Bush's tax plan, most notably his proposal to eliminate the estate tax, which he said is of particular concern to small businesses and family-owned farms.

Many Republican legislators would like to see a larger tax cut than the one Bush proposed, but Hunter thinks the size is appropriate.

‘‘I think you can always quibble about whether there can be some extra programs in the tax cut or extra categories, but I think he's got a prudent split on this,'' said Hunter.

Bush said he plans to set aside nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years to pay for unexpected needs in the areas of defense, support for farmers and Medicare reform.

Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Forces Subcommittee on Research and Development, approves of Bush's plan to put aside funding for future military spending.

At Bush's request, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is undertaking a review of the military's forces. Proposed changes may require additional funding, said Hunter.

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