tampabay.com

Bush seeks $245B for war through '08

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 3, 2007


WASHINGTON - Keeping troops in Iraq for another year and a half will cost nearly a quarter-trillion dollars - about $800 for every man, woman and child in the United States - under the budget President Bush will submit to Congress on Monday.

Bush will ask for $100-billion more for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145-billion for 2008, a senior Pentagon official said Friday. Those requests come on top of about $344-billion spent for Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

At the same time, Bush's budget request will propose cost curbs on Medicare providers, a cap on subsidy payments to wealthier farmers and an increase to $4,600 in the maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students.

Bush's proposal, totaling almost $3-trillion for the budget year starting Oct. 1, will kick off a major debate with the new Democratic-controlled Congress. Democrats are sure to press for more money for domestic programs, and they've signaled they won't consider renewing Bush's tax cuts until closer to 2010, when they are to expire.

The White House plan will produce a surplus in 2012, budget director Rob Portman said Friday - assuming strong growth in tax revenues, continued curbs on domestic agencies' spending and relatively modest cuts to farm programs, Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.

The requests, to be released Monday, would bring war spending for fiscal 2007 to about $170-billion, with the $145-billion for 2008 representing a decline.

The additional request for the current year includes $93.4-billion for the Pentagon and $6-billion for foreign aid and State Department costs - on top of $70-billion approved by Congress in September.

The White House assumes war spending will be down to $50-billion in 2009, and none is planned beyond then.

Bush's recent budgets have been met with skepticism by Democrats, partly because they have left out war costs and expensive changes to the alternative minimum tax, which is hitting an increasing number of middle class taxpayers.

In addition to its share of the $245-billion for the wars, the Defense Department will seek $481.4-billion to run the department for 2008 - an 11.3 percent increase over the $432-billion amount approved by Congress for this year.