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Democrats Defend States’ Needs in Latest Attack on Bush Budget

Democrats slammed President Bush’s $2.23 trillion budget from a fresh angle Thursday, charging that it leaves states in the lurch.

“[Bush’s budget] fails to fund the president’s own education reforms,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) said. “It fails to help states struggling with rising Medicaid costs. In addition, it cuts children’s health care, aid to local law enforcement, highway funding and environmental protection.”

States face a collective $68.5 billion budget shortfall in fiscal 2004 — the worst in 50 years, he said.

“When it comes to the way Congress deals with states’ challenges, many Republicans preach the gospel of states’ rights, but they practice policies that can be summed up in four words: ‘Pass on the pain,’” Daschle said.

In particular, Democrats have hammered the administration on its funding levels for education, arguing the president has not requested funding for his own No Child Left Behind Act.

“And in education, the administration’s budget receives a failing grade,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “It provides no additional help for our nation’s schools, even as states and communities are forced to make drastic cuts in our schools.”

Daschle said the budget outline falls $9 billion short of fully funding the president’s legislation.

Resounding a familiar theme — that Bush’s tax cut proposals are ill-advised and only benefit the rich — the Minority Leader added a new dimension, saying his proposal would cost states up to $64 billion over 10 years in lost revenues.

“We don’t need empty rhetoric,” Daschle said. “We don’t need unfunded mandates. If budgets are a reflection — in numbers — of our priorities, we need the president to re-order his priorities.”

Democratic leaders have made an effort over the past few months to highlight states’ needs. Their biggest step so far was to allow Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D) to deliver the party’s nationally televised response to Bush’s State of the Union address.

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