The fiscal 1992 budget that President Bush sends to Congress on Monday is squeezed by the costs of war and recession - and it may be more notable for what it doesn't do than for what it does.
The $1.4 trillion spending plan contains slight increases for health programs for the poor, boosts anti-drug efforts by 11 percent and proposes ending more than 200 small domestic programs and projects, administration and congressional officials say.But the blueprint contains no dramatic new blows at what will be a $281 billion federal deficit, the second largest shortfall ever.
It has no major anti-recession package and no big-dollar initiatives aimed at education, the environment or many of the nation's other problems.
The budget does cut defense spending from last year's $298.9 billion to $295.2 billion, a reduction the White House and congressional leaders agreed to last fall with the fading of the Cold War.
However, that figure doesn't include the mounting expenses for the war with Iraq, which the administration has said might cost $45 billion if it lasts for three months.
Democrats are already complaining that the plan is unimaginative and will have to put more emphasis on social and other domestic efforts.
"This could be another difficult budget year," Senate Budget Committee Chairman James Sasser, D-Tenn., said recently. "We've got a domestic shadow presidency."
Among other highlights of Bush's proposal:
-$16 billion in cuts in Medicare over the next five years, including about $3 billion next year, mostly in payments to hospitals for internship programs.
-Tax breaks for businesses that conduct research or that locate in poor areas.
From Bush's perspective, his restrained proposal is a result of the five-year budget deal struck last year that limits spending in an effort to begin shrinking federal red ink.
The budget gap for fiscal 1991 - which runs through Sept. 30 - is expected to hit $318 billion, $97 billion higher than the 1986 record deficit.
Further constraints come from the recession, which means the government will collect less revenue, and the burgeoning costs of the Persian Gulf war.
"Future spending debates will mean a battle of ideas, not a bidding war," Bush said in his State of the Union speech.
Bush has announced that for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, he will seek $11.7 billion for anti-drug programs, mostly for law enforcement efforts against dealers. That's an 11 percent increase over the $10.5 billion being spent this year, well above the year's 4 percent increase in inflation.
The president also will ask Congress to aim $3.3 billion at mass transit programs, lobbyists say, about a $60 million increase.
That would be a reduction when inflation is factored in, but the program has been targeted for far deeper cuts over the past decade. Mass transit officials are upset because Bush would cut the federal share of aid to local transit systems from about 75 percent down to as low as 50 percent.
The president proposes slightly increasing the program that provides health care for women and young children and wants to spend about $200 million to encourage more people in poor urban neighborhoods to use existing federal infant mortality programs.