WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is questioning President Clinton’s ability to pay for all of the initiatives outlined in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
Bartlett, of Frederick, called Clinton’s emphasis on education “appropriate,” but questioned whether money could be found to pay for all of the president’s proposals.
Clinton recommended, for instance, funneling an additional $5 billion in federal funds into school construction over the next four years.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how you get to a balanced budget when you’re spending more money,” Bartlett said.
However, Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the education proposals “don’t involve a lot of money; they involve a lot of will.”
Bartlett outlined some of the differences in philosophy he has with the president on the issue of education, which Clinton made a significant focus of his remarks.
Bartlett said he agreed with Clinton’s overall goal of improving education, but would rather it be done on a local level.
Clinton “envisions a larger role for the [federal] government than I feel is appropriate,” Bartlett said.
Clinton advocated “high national standards” for the nation’s school children, as well as a national certification program for teachers. Bartlett said he opposes both.
Bartlett did, however, express enthusiasm for Clinton’s proposed tax cuts and incentives to help middle-class families pay for college.
The president proposed a two-year $1,500 tax credit for college tuition, a $10,000 tax deduction for all tuition after high school, and expanded IRA accounts for education.
“The middle class have had the biggest problem with affording [college] education,” Bartlett said.
Clinton also proposed an increase in Pell grants for lower- income college students.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Baltimore said she, too, supported proposals that would offer “a quality public education for young children” and help with college tuition for older students.
Bartlett said he disagreed with another topic outlined in the president’s speech – his approach to campaign finance reform.
Clinton said he supports legislation written by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would reduce the role of special interests and ban the use of mass mailings by incumbents during election years. The bill also would establish voluntary spending limits for candidates, limit contributions from noncitizens living in the United States and restrict soft money – the unregulated donations to political parties that are funneled into party-building activities.
Bartlett said legislation that originated in Congress would be pro-incumbent. He said he favors establishing a blue-ribbon panel, similar to the one that devised the plan to close military bases.
“There are just so many different types of districts and so many competing interests,” Bartlett said, that “I despair that we will” pass campaign reform that continues to favor incumbents.
Bartlett did like some parts of Clinton’s speech. He said he was pleased by Clinton’s willingness to reach out to Republicans on issues such as balancing the budget and reforming welfare.
“Four years ago he wouldn’t have supported any of these things,” Bartlett said.
Clinton said he will release details this week on how to balance the federal budget by 2002, but added he opposes a constitutional amendment to achieve it.
Sarbanes and Mikulski both expressed strong support for the president’s goals for moving the country into the new century.
Sarbanes, of Baltimore, said the president delivered a “very powerful theme with an important impetus to act in the next 1,000 days. To be sure it doesn’t fade, he put his goals up against a time objective.”
CNS reporters Mike Householder, Karen Masterson and Mike Eacobacci contributed to this report. -30-