President Bush told Americans Thursday that he plans to realize his vision of a kinder, gentler nation by using economic growth and no increases in military spending to re-invigorate social programs, education and space exploration.
He said his budget - if Congress goes along - would do that and still reduce the federal deficit by 40 percent next year, all with no new taxes.Bush called it the beginning of "a mission of goodness and greatness." The nationally televised speech to a joint session of Congress was interrupted 60 times with applause and generally was received enthusiastically by both parties.
Bush's budget message also brought some good and bad news for Utahns.
It created some worry about what his military spending freeze might mean to Utah bases and contractors. But Utah politicians also rejoiced about strong support from Bush on topics of local interest ranging from expanding space research - which could benefit local contractors - to supporting Sen. Orrin Hatch's plan to improve child care.
Bush said he had four major goals for his budget: give attention to urgent priorities that would make America kinder and gentler, make investments for the future, attack the deficit and make no new taxes.
To attack the deficit and avoid new taxes, Bush said he will take advantage of economic growth - which is expected to bring in $80 billion in new tax dollars next year without creating new taxes.
"We can afford to increase spending - by a modest amount, but enough to invest in key priorities and still cut the deficit by almost 40 percent in one year. That will allow us to meet the targets set forth in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law," Bush said.
He wants to couple extra money from economic growth with a one-year freeze on increased military spending - which caused some concern among Utah politicians.
"That bothered me a bit," said Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "But as much as I'm one of the hawks on the Hill, I guess I'll have to say I'll go along with it."
Bush wants new spending to build America's future and take care of those now in need.
Among the investments for the future would be improving education, including a $500 million program to reward America's best schools, creating presidential awards for the best teachers and starting a new program of National Science Scholars.
He wants to advance growth and competitiveness by giving $2.2 billion to the National Science Foundation to promote research, by making permanent the tax credit for research, by creating a new Task Force on Competitiveness chaired by Vice President Dan Quayle and by requesting $2.4 billion more next year for space.
"We must have a manned space station; avigorous, safe space shuttle program; and more commercial development in space. The space program should always go `full throttle up' _ that's not just our ambition; it's our destiny," Bush said.
Sen. Jake Garn, who once flew on the space shuttle Discovery, said, "That couldn't have made me happier if I had written it myself."
Among the urgent priorities Bush sees to make the nation kinder and gentler is passing legislation within 45 days to bail out troubled savings and loans to ensure investments are safe.
Garn is deeply involved in that as the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. He said passing the legislation in 45 days "is probably not possible, but 60 days is. If he asked for 60 days, we'd probably go 75."
Bush also wanted the extra money available to go for an all-out war on drugs. "Let this be recorded as the time when America rose up and said, `No,' to drugs. . . . I am asking tonight for an increase of almost $1 billion in budget outlays to escalate the war against drugs. The war will be waged on all fronts."
His vision of a kinder, gentler nation included more social-program spending, including:
- $1.6 billion for education to prevent AIDS and research for a cure.
- Full funding of Medicaid, including an increase of $3 billion over last year, including coverage of low-income, pregnant women.
- Supporting a new tax credit to make child care more affordable. Sen. Orrin Hatch has been pushing the proposal. He was home sick with a cold and unavailable for comment.
- Creating a $3,000 tax credit to help cover adoption expenses. "Let's make it easier for these kids to have parents who love them."
- Creating a new program called YES, Youth Entering Service to America. Utahn Steve Studdert, an aide to Bush, was previously given a charge to increase national service through such programs.
Bush also wants to improve the environment by making use of clean coal and setting a date certain to reduce the emissions that cause acid rain. He also wants to end ocean dumping, clean up toxic waste and clean up nuclear waste at old plants.
Bush also wants to use his budget to strengthen foreign relations. He favored pursuing the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative - which could be good news to Utah State University, which has extensive SDI research grants.
Also of importance to Utah, where chemical arms are tested at Dugway Proving Ground and stored at Tooele Army Depot, was Bush's statement, "Chemical weapons must be banned from the face of the earth, never to be used again."
With Bush covering so many topics, Hansen said, "I'm still kind of reeling over a man who can cover so much ground. . . . I was totally impressed."