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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 20, 2003
Statement by the President
Today I Signed Into Law H.j. Res. 2, An Omnibus Appropriations Bill funding the remaining 11 appropriations bills for FY 2003. The funds provided in this resolution will provide important and long overdue resources for our Nations priorities, including fighting the war on terrorism and educating our most vulnerable children.
This bill provides over $397 billion in discretionary budget authority, including $10 billion in reserve funding for the Department of Defense, and is largely consistent with the agreed upon overall funding level. My original budget request, made a year ago, asked for the War on Terror reserve. I had separately agreed to endorse new funds for election reform, a bill that was passed months after my budget was submitted.
Unfortunately, the Congress chose to circumvent the spending limit for FY 2003 by borrowing $2.2 billion in funding from FY 2004. This action must be corrected by adjusting both the 2004 budget allocations and appropriations, and holding advance appropriations constant with the level enacted last year. I will ask the Leadership to ensure this happens.
This bill allocates over $53 billion in total Education funding. The Congress provided increases for many of my high-priority programs, including programs for reading, disadvantaged students, special education, and Pell Grants.
The bill also includes $3.3 billion in unrequested drought and other assistance, which is only minimally offset by real reductions in existing farm spending. Ninety-five percent of purported savings are scheduled to come several years from now, after the expiration of todays farm bill, and may prove illusory.
Most troublesome, H.J. Res. 2 falls nearly $1 billion short of my request for State and local law enforcement and emergency personnel, and in particular underfunds terrorism preparedness for first responders. I requested $3.5 billion for the First Responders Initiative. The bill, however, provides only $1.3 billion for this purpose. Meanwhile the bill provides $2.2 billion for existing State and local grant programs, which are not directly related to higher-priority terrorism preparedness and prevention efforts. This is unsatisfactory, and my Administration will use every appropriate tool available to ensure that these funds are directed to the highest priority homeland security needs.
This belated agreement to last years appropriations process is not perfect, but it underscores the need to move quickly on this years priorities outlined in my 2004 budget request. I look forward to working with the Congress to continue funding the war on terror, strengthening our economy, and protecting the homeland.
GEORGE W. BUSH
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