February 02,2004

Sen. Baucus Comments on Administration's Fiscal Year 2005 Budget

"The president has laid out an ambitious agenda in his FY2005 budget and I appreciate hisstated goal of cutting the deficit in half over five years. But I'm concerned that his budget won't fullyaccomplish that goal and will leave our children and grandchildren struggling under a mountain ofdebt.

One of my main concerns with the Administration's budget is the push for permanency of all2001 and 2003 tax cuts. I was a supporter of the 2001 tax cut legislation and believe it has made adifference to our economy. But our fiscal picture is much different than it was in 2001, with deficitnumbers falling deeper and deeper into the red.

It would be much more fiscally responsible to examine each tax cut on a case by case basis, asthey approach expiration. There are certainly provisions that make sense to extend, but let's examinethose when the time comes. In addition, we must ensure that any additional spending is offset whenthe economy is this deep in the red. I encourage the president to take another look at our deficit beforepushing for an unpaid, permanent, broad extension of the tax cuts.

In relation to our homeland security and military, I'm pleased that the president includesincreased funding, but I'm bothered by the fact that funds aren't included specifically for our troops inIraq and Afghanistan. Funding this important should not be handled in mid-year emergency spendingmeasures.

Another significant portion of the president's budget involves the creation of Lifetime SavingsAccounts and Retirement Savings Accounts. This proposal is a revenue raiser in the short run, but itwill be very expensive 20 years from now. The Administration's proposal would increase the amountindividuals can contribute to savings accounts, but over 90 percent of Americans do not currently reachtheir contribution limits. Instead of providing more savings tools for those who are already saving, Iwould rather focus on ways we can help those who otherwise can’t afford to save to do so, like theSaver’s Credit. We must work toward common sense retirement planning tools that help allAmericans, rather than a select few.

Finally, I encourage the president to more effectively ensure that all Americans have access toaffordable health insurance. In 2002, I proposed employer health insurance tax credits to help smallbusinesses provide health coverage for their employees. The proposal the president has outlined couldresult in leaving people to deal with the costly individual insurance market without providing themsufficient assistance to purchase adequate coverage.

We have an incredible number of responsibilities, with a limited amount of funds. I encouragethe President to fully examine our fiscal situation and to make responsible and prudent spendingdecisions that are in line with our priorities of boosting the economy, planning fo r our children's future,improving our nation's health care, and protecting our homeland. National defense spending willcontinue to be a significant piece of the budget for the near future. Our domestic and internationalresponsibilities are significant - we must choose our spending priorities wisely. "