Bush Puts Big Burden on California, Lawmakers Charge : Budget: Nine of the state’s Democrats say the President is using base closings as a partisan weapon and is ignoring domestic needs.

California Democrats charged Wednesday that President Bush’s proposed 1991 budget places an especially heavy burden on California taxpayers, uses military base closings as a partisan political weapon and ignores domestic needs.

Outlining their assessment of the budget’s impact at a joint news conference, nine members of the California Democratic congressional delegation said they will fight for more money for domestic programs such as Medicare and AIDS research and less for strategic weapons projects such as “Star Wars” and the Stealth bomber.

They also said they would seek, in the words of Rep. Vic Fazio of West Sacramento, to “take the politics out of the process” by which the Administration has targeted 55 military bases and other facilities–10 of them in California–for possible closure next year.

Serving notice that he will lead the delegation’s budget battle from his pivotal position as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Leon E. Panetta of Carmel Valley said the President’s proposed budget cuts would have a “tremendous” negative impact in areas important to California such as transportation, where Amtrak would be eliminated, and Medicare, where $5.5 billion in budget cuts are being proposed.

“With regard to savings, the weight of the budget cuts is on domestic programs, particularly in the entitlement area. . . . Many of those reductions impact on areas very important to California,” Panetta said.

Panetta offered no specific figures, saying the delegation’s assessment of the budget’s impact on California was still being developed.

But citing just one example, Rep. Howard Berman of Panorama City warned that the state would be saddled with a more than $500-million federal tab as a result of proposed cuts in a grant program set up in 1986 to assist newly legalized immigrants.

Reps. Barbara Boxer of Greenbrae and Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco both criticized what they said was the budget’s insufficient funding for AIDS research, while Rep. Esteban E. Torres of La Puente said he was angered by the budget’s failure to reverse the decline in funds for housing assistance begun under the Ronald Reagan Administration.

“Although housing prices have stabilized recently, fewer than 20% of our state’s population could afford the median $194,000 price of a home in California in 1990,” Torres said. Yet it is clear, Torres said, “President Bush intends to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps . . . reducing the federal government’s commitment to low-income housing assistance.”

The Democrats, who also included Reps. Don Edwards of San Jose, Glenn M. Anderson of San Pedro and Norman Y. Mineta of San Jose, took sharp issue with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney’s “hit list” of military bases that could be closed next year, calling it a politically motivated ploy to put Democats on the budget defensive and preempt their calls for steep defense budget cuts.

“We obviously feel defense cuts have to play an important role in budget savings this year, but these savings must be real,” said Panetta. He said past experience shows that the short-term cost of closing military bases often outweighs the immediate savings.

Noting that most of the bases slated for closure and nearly all the resulting job losses were in Democratic districts, Fazio charged that Cheney’s list was drafted with partisan politics, not defense considerations, in mind.

“He (Cheney) wanted to portray Congress, i.e. the Democrats, as pork barreling, parochial representatives. He wanted to put us all in some sort of political disarray, hoping that he could slow down the movement towards reduced defense spending,” Fazio charged.

Likening Cheney’s base list to a “hand grenade thrown into the process,” Boxer joined Fazio and other California members on the budget committee in supporting a proposal by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) to resurrect a bipartisan selection committee that would be empowered to decide which bases, if any, should be closed.

More generally but no less angrily, the Democrats also contended that Bush’s budget failed to reflect either the needs of the nation or the momentous changes that have taken place in the world, especially in East Europe, over the past year.

“The President is wearing blinders when it comes to the real needs of this nation,” Pelosi said. “We live in a changed world (where) the Soviet threat can no longer be used to justify ignoring the needs of the American people for education, health care and economic opportunity.”

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