The nation must pay its bills and address the federal deficit, U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., said during a visit to Lawrence Sunday.
Slattery spoke to about 15 federal employees at Haskell Indian Junior College, which was threatened by furloughs when Congress and the Bush administration couldn't agree on a budget resolution.
Members of Congress realize the budget crisis created uncertainty among the American people, Slattery said.
"I know that the furlough threat was particularly harmful to some of the federal employees in northeast Kansas," Slattery said. "I appreciate your encouragement as we were going through some of these battles."
In the end, federal employees received a 4.1 percent pay increase and retirees received a cost-of-living increase. Haskell, a federal Bureau of Indian Affairs school for Native Americans, came away with a $3 million increase for fiscal year 1991.
"FUNDING FOR Haskell ended on a positive note," Slattery said.
Congress approved $394,000 to restore Haskell's instructional budget, $306,000 for program development and equipment replacement and $2.3 million for facilities improvement and repair.
Members of the Native American community thanked Slattery Sunday with a traditional honor song. Bob Martin, president of Haskell, said Native Americans appreciate the genuine concern Slattery has shown for Haskell's students, faculty and staff.
Slattery said he supports additional funding in the future for a new residence hall at Haskell. A $3 million bill to fund the dormitory was passed by the Senate but did not make it out of conference committee.
"I think housing on this campus is urgently needed," Slattery said.
Martin asked Slattery if educational institutions could be exempted from furloughs during budget crises.
Slattery said he didn't believe Congress would ever pass such a measure.
"Every government agency thinks it should be exempt," he explained.
In order to avoid future budget crises, the United States must be fiscally conservative and address its deficit, Slattery said.
"The Jack Kemps of the world would say, `Don't worry about the deficit,' but I'm the classic fiscal conservative," Slattery said. "We have a moral responsibility to pay our bills."
SLATTERY SAID he was pleased with the five-year deficit reduction plan passed by Congress, but he said he would have rather seen a 10 percent surtax on millionaires instead of the 5-cent per gallon gasoline tax.
In other matters, Slattery said he was pleased with Congress' decision not to purchase additional B-2 bombers.
"The program is a $50 billion program," Slattery said. "That's how much Kansas will spend in the next 10 years. It was a big victory for everybody."
The nation also will save $2 million over five years by changing the way the government buys pharmaceuticals, Slattery said. He said the savings will go to children with medical needs.
"That's the kind of change we need to be able to make," Slattery said.