Good morning. Just over 2 weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed a large part of my tax relief plan. Now the House is about to vote on my budget, the funding we provide for the needs and goals of our Government. I have sent the Congress a budget plan that reflects our values as a people.
My budget is compassionate. It dedicates $238 billion to Medicare next year alone, enough to fund all current programs and to begin a new prescription drug benefit for low-income seniors. It protects all 2.6 trillion of the Social Security surplus for Social Security and for Social Security alone. It increases spending on education substantially. It provides tax credits to help low-income people buy health insurance. It adds funding for medical research, and it gives our men and women in uniform a $1 billion pay increase.
My budget is also responsible. It pays down the national debt faster than any country has ever repaid its debt before. It establishes a contingency fund for unexpected needs, and it provides a reasonable 4 percent increase in discretionary Government spending; that is, 4 percent after we have paid every promised dime for Social Security and Medicare. Then, after meeting all these priorities, we return about $1 out of every 4 in the surplus to the American taxpayer.
Some in Washington do not think a 4 percent spending increase is enough. They want Government to take a much larger part of the surplus. But think about it. For the past few years, average hourly wages have risen at a rate of about 4 percent. If the taxpayer can get by on a 4 percent raise, the tax collector ought to be able to make do with 4 percent, as well.
There's a lot at stake here. Last year Federal discretionary spending grew at a massive 8 percent. If this spending spree were to continue, we would drain the surplus by funding a permanently larger Government. This would be bad for the taxpayer and bad for the economy. It would make significant debt reduction and tax relief much more difficult.
My budget plan doesn't slam the brake on spending; it slows the growth of spending. It makes our increases in spending more realistic and reasonable. All in all, my budget will provide the Government with 100 billion more to spend in 2002. Even by Washington standards, this is a lot of additional money, and it is enough.
This debate illustrates a point I've been making for a while: When money is left in Washington, there is a tremendous temptation for the Government to use it. The point is simple: If you send it, they will spend it. And this is why we need a balanced approach of moderate spending growth, debt reduction, and meaningful tax relief.
This is the plan the Congress is now considering, and I hope you'll give it your support.
Thank you for listening.