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President’s budget gets rocky reception

By Tom Raum
Associated Press / February 3, 2010

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WASHINGTON - President Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget outline drew bipartisan fire from lawmakers yesterday, with Republicans contending that it does not address deficits soon enough and raises taxes too much. Democrats balked at some of Obama’s spending cuts.

It was a rocky reception for the day-old document, underscoring election-year restlessness and rising public anger at bank bailouts, corporate bonuses, and ballooning deficits. The concerns suggested it could be difficult for Obama to win support for key parts of his budget, even from members of his own party.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida called Obama’s proposal to cancel the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s manned moon-return program shortsighted. Senator Patty Murray of Washington derided his proposal to include Army Corps projects in a proposed partial spending freeze. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said environmental priorities in the budget would unfairly burden coal states such as his. All three are Democrats.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, under grilling by the Senate Finance Committee, said that despite the lively crossfire he could see a bipartisan consensus building that “deficits matter, tax cuts are not free.’’

“The American people want to see their leaders coming together and bringing practical solutions’’ to the problems created by the worst downturn since the 1930s, Geithner said.

In one sign of possible common ground, Max Baucus, a Democrat of Montana and the Senate Finance Committee chairman, suggested there is support across party lines for Obama’s proposal to give companies a $5,000 tax credit for each new worker they hire in 2010.

Even so, Obama may not be able to count on one Republican who has worked with Democrats in the past. Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine denounced Obama’s effort to create jobs while proposing higher taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year. Snowe said the tax increase would also hit small businesses, leaving many owners unwilling to start hiring again because of uncertainties over future tax liabilities.

Another contentious area was Obama’s proposal to draw up to $30 billion remaining in the $700 billion bank bailout program to invest in community banks to encourage them to lend to small businesses. Obama promoted the program yesterday at an appearance in Nashua.