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Archive for Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Plan gets mixed reviews among Kansas delegation

February 6, 2007

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— Kansas Republicans on Monday generally praised President Bush's budget plan for holding down taxes, but Democrats warned that planned cuts to Medicare would mean higher premiums for many residents.

The $2.9 trillion spending proposal would boost funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and make Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent. But it also calls for $78 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, the government's health care programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

If adopted in Congress, the spending cuts would help Bush meet his goal of eliminating the federal deficit in five years.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., called the White House's defense spending plans a "significant investment" and credited Bush's tax relief measures for helping the economy grow.

"I look forward to debating these ideas critical to our economy, while not losing sight of our long-term funding obligations like Social Security and Medicare," Roberts said.

But the plan - covering the 2008 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 - faced a hostile reception from a Democratic-controlled Congress, and the spending blueprint is expected to see major revisions.

Democrats slammed the plan to trim health care spending, saying the cuts would cause more Medicare beneficiaries to pay higher premiums for coverage of prescription drugs and doctors' services. Most of the Medicare savings would come in slowing the growth of payments to hospitals and other health care providers.

"I am concerned that the president's budget sets aside billions of dollars to finance an expansion of the Iraq war, but cuts desperately needed funds from Medicare and Medicaid," said freshman Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda, of Topeka, whose district includes western Lawrence and Douglas County. "As Congress reviews the president's proposals, we'll work to ensure that the final budget reflects our nation's priorities."

Republican Jerry Moran said he opposes Bush's plan to cut $193 million from health professional training programs, which are needed to keep small hospitals open and staffed with qualified personnel in his rural western Kansas district.

Moran also said he is concerned that the proposed agriculture budget, which increases spending by 3.6 percent, "may be inadequate and does not provide a safety net should crop prices decline."

While Bush's plan calls for a 6 percent increase in funding for veterans health care, Moran said he is disappointed that the president wants to establish enrollment fees and increase prescription drug co-payments for some veterans.

Joining Roberts in defending the Bush plan was Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who represents the Wichita area. Tiahrt said the budget proposal keeps the economy strong with low taxes, keeps spending under control and protects national security.

"I agree with the president's plan to balance the federal budget without raising taxes on the American people," Tiahrt said.

Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore, whose district includes eastern Lawrence and Douglas County, said he is concerned the budget proposal does not address "the priorities of the American people" with cuts "to programs that invest in our future, like education and health care."

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