Several big proposals in President Bush's fiscal 2008 budget are lightning rods for controversy, among them:
_Extending his first-term tax cuts. This would cost the Treasury some $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Newly empowered Democrats in Congress have made it clear that they intend to let tax reductions for the very wealthy expire in 2010. The question is where they'll draw the line on income: $500,000? $250,000? This conflict will color the politics of budget-making until 2010, at least.
_Paying for the wars. Bush's request would drive the total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to $661.9 billion through fiscal 2008. Democrats say the president asks too much. They promise rigorous oversight, and may put strings on what money they do grant in a bid to end the Iraq war.
_Health-care funds. Bush proposes to trim the growth rate of spending on Medicare to save $66 billion over five years, and $25 billion from Medicaid. Democrats defend both programs and talk of "investing" more in health care.
_State Children's Health Insurance Program. The president proposes to increase spending by $1 billion a year for five years. Democrats say that's not nearly enough. This program is an early battleground in coming partisan warfare over overhauling national health insurance.
_Squeezing domestic programs. Bush proposes to eliminate or slash spending on 141 federal programs, mostly domestic, to save $12 billion over five years. Congress rejected virtually all these cuts the past two years, and Congress now is run by Democrats, who are even less likely to reduce them.
_Balancing the budget by 2012. Both the president and the Democratic-led Congress set this goal, but offer very different means. Bush wants low taxes, high spending on the military and belt-tightening everywhere else. Democrats want to end some of his high-end tax cuts, give the military smaller increases and direct more spending into health care, education and other domestic needs. Reaching a balanced budget by 2012 would require large compromises on taxes and spending, unusual spending discipline from both sides, a healthy economy and luck.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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