Bush's 2003 Budget Increases NASA Glenn Funding

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's 2003 budget increases spending on the NASA Glenn Research Center and a host of defense-related programs while cutting dollars for highway projects and a closed uranium enrichment plant in southern Ohio.

Bush's $2.13 trillion budget submitted to Congress on Monday funds several programs important to the Cleveland space center, boosting its budget by nearly $100 million to $731.3 million.

This is a change from last year, when the Bush administration threatened to cut 8 percent of the center's funding. Ohio lawmakers later restored the deleted funds.

The president's budget request is considered the administration's opening offer in what normally involves months of negotiation with Congress. The 2003 federal fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Military spending in the budget increased dramatically across the nation. In Ohio, those increases could translate into higher funding for armored vehicle programs at the General Dynamics plant in Lima and new aircraft for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, according to Republican Sen. George Voinovich.

Some individual military projects in Ohio were featured in the budget, including $10.4 million to build a 144-room dormitory at Wright-Patterson, and $5 million to build a physical fitness facility at the Defense Logistics Agency in Columbus.

"The overall defense budget figure is a good news for Wright-Patterson," Republican Sen. Mike DeWine said. "It's a very comprehensive base. It's a very diverse base. When you have a significant increase in military spending, Wright-Patterson is going to do well."

For the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio, the administration's proposal included money both for cleanup and putting the closed facility on cold standby. However, the overall funding for Ohio's site and others in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Paducah, Ky., decreased by $6.4 million to $167.9 million.

Another of Bush's reductions expected to hit the state is the $9 billion cut -- to $23 billion -- for nationwide highway spending.

"This is going to be a huge slash for Ohio," Rep. Ted Strickland said. "This administration is absolutely turning its back on our homeland needs."

Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, said the Piketon cuts and reductions in highway funding are not the right way to finance America's war on terrorism.

While it's hard to make cuts, House Budget Committee member Rep. Rob Portman said, overall he supports the president's military buildup.

"Keeping the rest of government spending within limits is going to be our great challenge," said the Cincinnati Republican. "I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and do that."

The Energy Department budget included a slight increase in funding to clean up four contaminated weapons sites in Ohio, but didn't offer any additional details for how a proposed $800 million in additional cleanup funds would be administered.

Last year, Bush's budget request had proposed significant decreases in cleanup funding for weapons-related sites at Fernald near Cincinnati, Mound in Miamisburg, Ashtabula and Battelle Laboratories in Columbus.

As with NASA Glenn, lawmakers restored the funding in the final 2002 budget bill. This year, the Bush budget maintained that funding level at $419.7 million, an increase of just $1.3 million.

The Appalachian Regional Commission, which seeks to boost the economy of southern Ohio and other parts of Appalachia, was spared deep cuts.

The Bush budget allocates about $66 million for the agency's non-highway projects, which is $5 million less than this year's funding. Highway funding remained the same at $400 million.

The budget also gives a 47 percent increase to an Ohio park preparing for a Wright Brothers anniversary celebration. The president agreed to seek about $1.7 million for the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, scheduled to open later this year.

Rep. Tony Hall's office called the increase "significant" but said it may not be enough to get the park ready for the December 2003 celebration, the centennial of the first flight by a plane built by Orville and Wilbur Wright.

"The idea is you want it to be in full swing before the visitors arrive in 2003, and we're running out of time," said Hall's spokesman, Michael Gessel.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)