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Budget Cap Not Fit For Budget Chief?

When the Bush administration released its 2004 budget earlier this week, budget director Mitch Daniels said federal spending increases should be capped at 4 percent next year.

Daniels explained that the 4 percent figure was the same as the average American family could expect to see in their annual income, and that President Bush wanted to "match government's growth to the growth of American family income."

But the New York Times reports Thursday that the 4 percent cap apparently doesn't apply to all federal agencies, including the one Daniels heads. His Office of Management and Budget is seeking a spending increase next year of 8.5 percent, from $71 million this year to $77 million in 2004.

An OMB spokesman, Trent D. Duffy, defended the increase Thursday, telling the Times it was needed, in part, to help pay for the new Homeland Security Department' s budget system. He said the OMB's spending had been essentially flat for two years.

"President Bush believes his request for OMB's 500 top-flight civil servants is more than justified," Duffy said.

Though the OMB's request for $6 million in extra funds is a drop in the bucket in the administration's $2.23 trillion budget, Congressional
Democrats says it's a good example of White House hypocrisy on spending.

"Only someone truly out of touch with reality would preach frugality for homeland security, education and job training while trying to give his own office a huge raise," said David Sirota, spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.

The Times reports the issue was brought to their attention by Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill, who discovered the OMB increase in the fine print of the budget, in a table on page 884 of the 1181-page budget appendix.

The OMB's budget increase, in percentage terms, would be more than double that of the Pentagon's, and higher than the agencies being combined to form the Department of Homeland Security.

The Office of Management and Budget is part of the executive branch, although its spending requests are listed separately in the federal budget.

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