Delegation tough on budget

Helena Independent Record

by Editorial

Montana's congressional delegation is rightfully aghast at what President Bush revealed Monday as his budget proposal for the next federal fiscal year, with even Republican Denny Rehberg finding plenty to complain about.

While all the details have yet to filter down to the voters, the document's message is plain: more war, more tax cuts, and more deficits.

"A good budget must be realistic," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., at a hearing Tuesday. He said that by proposing cuts in health programs, making tax cuts permanent and omitting war costs in predicting a budget surplus by 2012, the budget fails that realism test by a wide margin.

Stories by IR Washington Bureau reporter Noelle Straub explain how the budget plans huge cuts in federal land management, from the Forest Service to the BLM, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Closer to home, local law enforcement complained that proposed cut, if approved, would wipe out Montana's drug task forces. That was all the more chilling when Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Cheryl Liedle pointed out that the last five murders in the Helena area were drug related, and that it was task force detectives' informants who led to closing the cases.

Bush's claim of surplus by 2012 has to be his most ridiculous statement of all. His current estimates are for a $410 billion deficit in 2008 and a $407 budget deficit in 2009. Plus, his numbers assume absolutely no funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan starting in 2010.

The good news is that the president's budget is indeed just a proposal, and it is one that the Democratic-controlled Congress is pretty much going to ignore. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a frequent Baucus ally on bipartisan initiatives, put it bluntly: "The focus is not going to be on the president's budget. The focus is going to be on what the next president will do."