Clinton budget of $1.5 trillion sees light today Labor Department request stresses worker training

April 08, 1993|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton will submit a $1.5 trillion federal budget today to boost economic growth, stimulate investment and cut the deficit.

In a preview of the basic thrust of the fiscal 1994 budget, the Labor Department announced its own $40.4 billion budget yesterday. Emphasizing worker training and education, helping the unemployed, and cutting administrative costs, it was geared closely to the administration's economic priorities.

The devil of tomorrow's budget will be in the details of discretionary spending, as departments identify which programs they are cutting, reducing, or boosting in line with the Clinton master plan for economic recovery.

Three departments -- Defense, Energy and Labor -- have already published details of their budgets.

Included in the Labor Department's requests for funding yesterday was $4.9 billion earmarked for worker "investment," through such initiatives as summer jobs, industrial retraining, and extended unemployment benefits.

In one new program, the department is allocating $9 million this year to enable states to identify workers facing long-term unemployment so they can be guided quickly into job search, re-training or counseling programs. It is an effort to integrate unemployment benefits with re-training programs.

"It's a small step," said Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich. "This is a jobless recovery. . . . Jobs are really not coming back, and that is the problem. That is what a lot of Americans are concerned about."

With unemployment stuck at around 7 percent and 16 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed, Mr. Reich said that there was still "a lot of pain out there."

The Labor Department will spend $1 billion creating 700,000 summer youth jobs this year, putting between $1,100 and $1,300 in each youngsters pocket.

It is requesting $1.7 billion for the program for fiscal 1994. MrReich said he had alerted mayors and rural officials eligible for the funding to gear up programs for the summer.

Assistance to an estimated 850,000 dislocated workers -- whether they lose their jobs because of cheap foreign labor, defense cut backs, or automation -- will be increased to $1.9 billion in 1994 from $596.6 million this year, the largest increase in the area of employment and training programs.

Mr. Reich pointed out that in previous recessions 44 percent of the unemployed were temporarily laid off and eventually returned to their jobs. This recession only 14 percent of the unemployed expect to get their old jobs back.

Another new outlay in the department's budget is $135 million for introduction of an apprenticeship scheme to help non-college students find worthwhile jobs.

The Department of Education will also spend $135 million on the program.

"Over the long run, if you don't have a college degree in this country you are not in good shape," said Mr. Reich, who said the apprenticeship program should bring the educational, business and labor communities together.

To fulfill the Clinton administration's commitment to streamlining government, the Labor Department will cut 271 of its 17,929 jobs next year, for a saving of $10 million. Another $10.5 million will be saved through administrative reforms.

Today's budget, which will include similar spending and saving initiatives from the other departments, will be the first in 12 years not to be dismissed as dead on arrival by the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill.

It will be heavy on reinventing government and modernizing America, the two broad themes sounded in the Clinton election campaign. Its immediate emphasis will be on job creation, currently the major impediment to real economic recovery.

The Clinton budget also will be notable for the absence of a major piece of the economic puzzle: health care reform. Controlling health care costs is central to long-term deficit reduction, but the reform plan that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is working on will not be ready until the middle of next month, at the earliest.

Republicans are planning to assault both the economic assumptions and the content of the budget, particularly targeting the depth of the defense cuts, signs of political pay-offs for election support from such special interest groups as organized labor and the teachers' unions, and the impact of the tax increases which Mr. Clinton says will hurt primarily the rich.

"It may not be dead on arrival but it certainly will be chewed up, massaged, split from stem to stern and stiched back up," said Eric Ueland, research and communications director of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. "In the end it may look like the Clinton budget, but its details probably will be vastly changed."

The Senate Republicans have already flexed their muscle on Mr. Clinton's $16.3 billion stimulus package, still stalled by a GOP filibuster which is expected to force the White House to trim back its spending plan after the Easter recess.

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