Democrats unveil budget proposal

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats unveiled a budget plan Tuesday that would inject billions of additional dollars into such domestic priorities as education, energy and transportation, while providing $35 billion for a second round of government spending aimed at stimulating a weak economy.

The spending would push the federal deficit to more than $350 billion in fiscal 2009, but Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the blueprint would erase the deficit within four years, producing a $160 billion surplus in 2013.

To get there, however, Democrats assume all of President Bush’s first-term tax cuts would expire on schedule in 2010, bringing in billions in revenue. But if the most popular tax measures were extended, as the two Democratic presidential candidates have promised, the surplus would all but evaporate, Conrad said.

The Democratic budget also would omit several costly items, including tens of billions of dollars to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the budget proposed last month by the White House, the Democratic blueprint includes just $70 billion for the fighting in 2009 and nothing thereafter.

Whether that figure is credible “depends a lot on what kind of administration you get next,” Conrad told reporters. If a Democrat takes the White House, he said, the number is “much closer to being realistic.”

The briefing was billed as a preview of a budget document that is to be released today to the Senate Budget Committee.

Among the Democrats’ proposals Conrad outlined:

•$35 billion for a second economic stimulus package that would come on top of the $168 billion bill signed by Bush last month. The new measure could pump more money into unemployment benefits, food stamps or heating assistance for low-income families.

•$13.4 billion in energy tax cuts and $3.5 billion in new funding for energy programs.

•$13 billion in education tax cuts, and an additional $5.7 billion over Bush’s request for other education programs.

•$3.9 billion over Bush’s request for transportation programs.

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