Obama budget increases NIH, education spending

By Jackie Calmes and Robert Pear
New York Times / January 31, 2010

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WASHINGTON - President Obama will send a $3.8 trillion budget to Congress tomorrow for the coming fiscal year that would increase financing for education and for civilian research programs by more than 6 percent and provide $25 billion for cash-starved states, even as he seeks to freeze much domestic spending for the rest of his term.

The budget for fiscal 2011, which begins in October, will identify the winners and losers behind Obama’s proposal for a three-year freeze of a portion of the budget. Many programs at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Energy Department are in line for increases, along with the Census Bureau.

Among the losers would be some public works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers, two historic preservation programs, and NASA’s mission to return to the moon, which would be ended as the administration seeks to reorient the space program to use private companies for launchings.

Obama is recycling some proposals from last year, including one to end redundant payments for land restoration at abandoned coal mines; Western lawmakers blocked it in 2009. Obama will propose a total of $20 billion in such savings for the coming fiscal year.

Exempted from the cuts are national security, veterans programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security - the most expensive and fastest-growing areas of the budget. By filling in the details behind the freeze, the administration hopes to show critics that it used a scalpel rather than an ax to keep spending for the targeted domestic agencies to $447 billion annually through 2013, saving $10 billion in the coming fiscal year.

The three-year freeze would save $250 billion over the coming decade, assuming the overall spending on the domestic programs is permitted to rise no more than the inflation rate - an austerity that neither party has ever achieved in Washington.

Even so, the $250 billion in savings would be less than 3 percent of the total deficits projected through 2020.

Criticism of the spending plan has ranged from arguments among liberals and some economists that Obama should not be cutting spending when the economy needs more stimulus money, to complaints from Republicans that the savings are too paltry when annual trillion-dollar deficits are the largest since World War II.