WASHINGTON -- The Clinton Administration is spending $27.2 billion more on investment initiatives in its first two years than the Bush Administration did in its final year.
But Republicans question the substance of the investments.
The Office of Management and Budget released a report this week showing the Clinton Administration spent $75.3 billion in fiscal 1994 and $83.6 billion in fiscal 1995, compared with $65.8 billion spent by the Bush Administration for investments in fiscal 1993.
But it remains to be seen whether the programs constitute investments, said Marvin Kosters, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy and Research, a conservative Washington think tank.
Kosters suggested that many of the programs listed by the administration should be termed consumption, rather than investments.
The OMB defines investments as "what the president believes will make the country a healthier, more productive place in the future: economically productive, competitive, better-trained workers, stronger infrastructure, better-prepared children," said Lawrence J. Haas, associate director for communications at the OMB.
"The initial description would seem to describe any good thing," Kosters said.
The OMB figures show that overall discretionary spending declined $15.9 billion over two years to $535.6 billion in fiscal 1995, while investment spending rose $17.8 billion over the same period to $83.6 billion in fiscal 1995. The federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Clinton's first budget, in fiscal 1994, set into law the administration's economic program with discretionary spending caps at fiscal 1993 levels and a greater focus on human and physical capital investments, according to the OMB.
As a result, noninvestment discretionary spending in fiscal 1995 was $33.9 billion lower than in fiscal 1993, while total discretionary spending was $15.9 billion less in fiscal 1995 than in fiscal 1993, according to the OMB.
"The focus is on what we can do today to insure the nation grows in the future," the OMB's Haas said. "The president is focusing on investments in human capital like education and children's programs, and physical capital like infrastructure. Those things are investments that pay off down the road."
While agreeing with the administration's overall definition of an investment, the Republicans would not categorize the same types of programs as investments, said Bill Hoagland, minority staff director for the Senate Budget Committee.
"When people think about investments, they usually think about capital investments, not human resources investments like food stamps and child nutrition programs, which are more for current consumption," Hoagland said.
"There is a role for the government in participating in certain areas, particularly in a partnership area, with the private sector where our funding will help stimulate the activity in terms of its ability to create long-term productivity," he said.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy association, took a more pointed view of the Clinton Administration's investments.
"So what? All we've merely done is replaced congressional pork with administration pork," said Scott Hodge, federal budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
"The reality of the situation is the administration is trying to channel federal dollars toward Democratic constituencies in the education field and in the labor industries who benefit from construction contracts," Hodge said.
The administration got 65% of all the investment funding it asked for in the current fiscal year, the OMB report said.
In the appropriations category that includes the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, the administration received $2.65 billion, or 98% of its requested funding.
Most of the increased funding went to programs governing clean water initiatives at the EPA, research and education initiatives for the National Science Foundation, and national and community service programs, Haas said.
Another investment initiative that received increased funding this fiscal year was transportation programs, Haas said. For example, highway obligation grants and mass transit formula grants received the bulk of new spending in this year's $38.3 billion transportation appropriations bill, he said.