Science & Technology in Congress
On April 8, Rep. George Brown (D-CA) introduced H. Con. Res. 58, a concurrent resolution to establish the congressional budget for the United States for fiscal years 1998-2002. H. Con. Res. 58 outlines an investment budget that Brown has been touting before various members of Congress as a proposed solution to the current budget impasse (see April 1997). Brown's investment budget proposes a five-year plan to enhance investments in three critical areas: research and development (R&D), capital infrastructure, and human resources. At the same time the resolution proposes curbing growth in entitlement programs and "non-investment" discretionary programs, and calls for an adjustment in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Brown's entitlement reform proposal and CPI fix somewhat mirror another budget proposal introduced by a coalition of 22 moderate to conservative House Democrats known as "The Coalition" or the "Blue Dogs."
The Brown investment budget aims to restructure the budget process to distinguish between investments and consumption in the decision making process. The proposed resolution includes language regarding the need for maintaining federal investments. "It is the sense of Congress that a balanced program to improve the economy should be based on the concurrent goals of eliminating the deficit and maintaining Federal investment in programs that enhance long-term productivity..." In terms of the treatment of federal investments within the context of the budget the proposed resolution states, "It is the sense of Congress that the current budget structure focuses primarily on short-term spending and does not highlight for decision making purposes the differences between Federal spending for long-term investment and that for current consumption."
By the year 2002, Brown's proposal would increase investments in R&D, capital infrastructure, and human resources by $70 billion above the President's request in these areas. For example, all civil R&D would receive an annual growth rate of 5 percent per year, an increase of $31 billion over the President's request. Defense R&D would also be increased by $4.6 billion. A total of $218 billion would be allocated over the same five-year period for ground, air and water transportation programs, an increase of $37 billion over the President's request. For programs related to education, training, and human capital the Brown proposal would essentially mirror the President's request without requesting any further increases.
To offset these investments in order to balance the budget, H. Con. Res. 58 recommends changes to entitlements and other non-investment accounts. It proposes that growth in Medicaid and Medicare be slowed by $25 billion and $120 billion respectively, and recommends that defense spending be frozen at the FY 1997 level through 2002. Note that the proposal recommends increasing defense R&D and freezing defense spending at the same time. In addition, it recommends that a Trust Fund be established to deposit the proceeds of spectrum auctioning to be utilized for future public investment needs.
H. Con. Res. 58 currently has seventeen signatories on board, mostly House Democrats from the Science Committee, including Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL), Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-MI), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). However, other supporters include Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN) and Rep. Bob Wise (D- WV), chairman and member (respectively) of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. David Obey (D-WI) chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. H. Con. Res. 58 has been referred to the House Budget Committee, and includes language for the Committee on Commerce, and the Committee on Ways and Means to submit their recommendations on dealing with the proposed offsets that fall within their jurisdiction.