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Oct. 1 here again with no budget

Oct. 1 annually marks the start of the new federal fiscal year. It's a time when, after a summer-long deliberation over federal spending requests, a new federal balanced federal budget is in place to run the government for another year.

Oct. 1 annually marks the start of the new federal fiscal year. It's a time when, after a summer-long deliberation over federal spending requests, a new federal balanced federal budget is in place to run the government for another year.

But just like the meltdown in our nation's financial markets causing Congress to scramble to find a way out, the orderly funding of our government's services has become an annual scramble and this year is no different.

Congress on Saturday sent to President Bush a stopgap spending measure of $634 billion to fund the federal government temporarily until next March. That seems fine and good to lawmakers, who will then skip any serious budget debates until after the November election, but the American public is left yet again without a solid financial plan of where our government is headed, relying yet again on a hodge-podge budget that guarantees deficit spending.

It's not even an honest budget, as any appropriations to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are off-budget, or not included in the formal federal budget that by rights needs to be balanced. Attention from the annual need to pass at least 13 regular budget appropriations bills by Oct. 1 was overshadowed by the financial meltdown and the ensuing debate over the administration's proposed $700 billion bailout, talks which were in progress over the weekend.

The problem with such a large catch-all bill in the remaining days that essential floats government a few more months, is that opportunity is great to include a lot of baggage that normally won't stand on its own. The massive bill includes good things, such as doubling funding for low-income heating assistance, money to avert a shortfall in Pell college aid grants, solve problems in the Women, Infants and Children program delivering healthy food to the poor and adds funding for veterans programs. It also ends a summer-long debate by ending a long-standing ban on drilling for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

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But the bill also includes $25 billion in taxpayer-subsidized loans to Detroit automakers to retool plants and development of technologies -- something they should have done on their own years ago. More importantly, the bill includes a barrel of pork-spending, with enough pet projects to choke a pig. The Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, discovered 2,322 pet projects in the bill, totaling $6.6 billion. That includes 2,025 in the defense portion of the bill alone, totaling $4.9 billion.

It's been many years since the federal government started Oct. 1 on time with a balanced budget in place. Then again, it's been many years since we've had a balanced budget. We can only hope a new administration will change that bad habit.

BEMIDJI PIONEER

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