Springfield Journal Register

February 8, 2002

LaHood goes against Bush, urges balanced '03 budget 


WASHINGTON - Breaking with President Bush, Rep. Ray LaHood and 10 other House Republicans urged Congress on Thursday to balance next year's budget.

While LaHood supports increased spending for the war on terrorism and homeland security, the Peoria Republican said he opposes Bush's $2.13 trillion budget request sent to Congress
earlier this week because it allows for an $80 billion budget deficit.

The goal of a balanced budget is within reach now that the administration's $77 billion economic stimulus package has failed in the Senate, the Republican lawmakers said.

That leaves the president's proposal only $3 billion over budget, they said.

"I believe the idea of a balanced budget is absolutely critical to sending a message to the American people that we can do like they do year-in, year-out, and that is live within our
means," LaHood said. "We ought to set the standard."

But he acknowledged there will be "a spirited debate" in the House.

Already there is movement in the House and Senate to increase the amount of highway funding available to the states. The White House budget proposal for fiscal 2003 shows a $9
billion decrease in highway funding, based on a formula approved by Congress in 1998.

LaHood and many others also oppose the administration's proposal to cut $1.3 billion in funding already approved by Congress for specific local projects in their districts.

LaHood has pushed for a balanced budget long before the current economic recession and war on terrorism put a strain on federal funding.

He was one of just three Republicans who didn't sign the GOP's "Contract With America" after Republicans took control of the House in 1995 because he didn't want to vote for tax cuts until the budget was balanced.

He was one of seven Republicans to vote against the president's economic stimulus package last October because it included a new round of tax cuts and rebates. But he voted for a
revised package including more unemployment benefits in December.