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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 19, 1996
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                         AND THE VICE PRESIDENT                      
                     IN PRESENTATION OF 1997 BUDGET
                                Room 450
                     Old Executive Office Building

2:07 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I need a lot of help today. (Laughter.) Good afternoon. Today I am presenting to Congress and the American people my budget for Fiscal Year 1997. This detailed budget plan invests in our people and balances the budget in seven years.

The budget continues the economic strategy that I put in place when I took office of President. Three years ago our economy was drifting and our deficit was exploding. In the 12 years before I became President the deficit had skyrocketed and the national debt had quadrupled. I was determined that our nation must change course and once again provide growth and opportunity for the American people.

So we cut the deficit. We invested in education and training. We opened foreign markets to our goods and services through tough trade agreement. We shrank and reformed our government so that it now has the smallest work force in 30 years, but is still capable of performing essential functions necessary to the well-being and the growth of the American people.

The American economy has turned around. It is now poised for sustained growth. Thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of the American people, our nation has created 8.4 million jobs. We have the lowest combined rate of unemployment, inflation, and home mortgage rates in 27 years. Exports are up dramatically, to an all-time high. Key industries from autos to semiconductors once again lead the world. And just yesterday the World Economic Forum said that for the third year in a row the American economy was the world's most productive.

In addition to that, it's worth noting that in the last couple of years wages have started rising for the first time in a decade, and as compared with four years ago, when only 20 percent of the new jobs paid above average wages, in 1995 over 55 percent of the new jobs paid above average wages.

But there is more to do. We must press on. The most important thing we can do to keep our economy growing is to finish the job of balancing the budget in a way that reflects our values. In 1992, I pledged to cut the deficit in half and to continue cutting it after that. We are cutting the deficit in half. I'm proud to say that my 1997 budget is the first budget presented by a President from either party in nearly two decades to come to balance using the numbers of both Congress and the Executive Branch.

It cuts unnecessary spending in hundreds of government programs. It reforms welfare, putting in place a system that ends welfare as we know it and moves more people from welfare to work. It honors our values by protecting Medicare and Medicaid, and investing in our future through education and the environment. It closes corporate loopholes and cuts taxes for working families and small businesses.

Most important, this is the second year of the plan I presented to the American people to balance the budget in seven years. This budget underscores my personal determination. We will balance the budget. The best way for that to happen is for Congress and I to work together.

In the coming weeks, we must seize the opportunity we now have to give the American people a moment of real bipartisan achievement. Over the last several months I have worked closely with the bipartisan congressional leadership. We have spent hours and hours together in serious and productive discussions. The congressional leaders and I have identified $700 billion in savings common to both our plans. That is more than enough to balance the budget in seven years and to provide a tax cut.

I am ready to work with the leaders of Congress to finish the job. Toward that end, I have invited the bipartisan congressional leadership to meet with me tomorrow at the White House. I will urge them to address our pressing national concerns -- balancing the budget, welfare reform, the Kennedy-Kassebaum health care bill, the antiterrorism legislation. And we will also discuss the prospects for progress on all these areas in the weeks ahead.

We have to meet our common obligation to act on our urgent national priorities. We should enact a balanced budget and we should do it now -- not after the November election, not after the political season, not later, but now. The American people deserve nothing less. It is the right thing to do.

Now I'd like to call on the Vice President to discuss some of the priorities in the budget that we are pursuing consistent with our strategy. And then others will come forward to brief you on other aspects of the budget.

Mr. Vice President.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

I appreciate the opportunity to briefly amplify a few of the points President Clinton just made. I would like to begin by complimenting OMB Director Alice Rivlin and her whole team on the outstanding job that you have before you; and also Laura Tyson, Chair of the National Economic Council; Joe Stiglitz, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; and Deputy Secretary of Treasury Larry Summers who will also participate in the briefing for himself and representing Secretary Rubin.

It is said that journalists write the first draft of history. If that is, indeed, the case, what you're witnessing today is quite historic. For the first time in a generation, a President of the United States is submitting to Congress a plan that brings the federal budget into balance by any and every measure.

This historic budget required the President to make some very difficult choices. But after a lot of hard work, he and his team have managed to balance the budget without unbalancing our values. This plan recognizes that government cannot do everything, but that it must do some things.

I'd like to focus for just a moment on four matters that I believe are particularly important and integral to the future of our country -- the environment, technology, education and a reinvented federal government.

Americans have said loudly and clearly that they expect their government to protect our quality of life, from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the food we consume. Until recently there hasn't been much disagreement about the necessity of government performing this duty. In fact, the greatest strides in environmental protection, historically, have been made by a Republican President working with a Democratic Congress, and every one of the major environmental statutes received broad bipartisan support when it was enacted.

A budget must honor this bipartisan commitment to our natural world and preserve our environment to protect our children's health. The President's budget does that. The budget that we release today increases by 23 percent the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to do things like cut pollution and enforce the environmental laws.

Americans also understand that in a global economy the only way to maintain America's competitive edge is to lead the world in innovation and new technologies. Investments in science and technology mean better jobs, higher wages, and a growing economy -- not to mention new cures for diseases and new products that enrich our lives. A budget, therefore, must honor our obligation to push back scientific frontiers and crash through technological barriers. The President's budget does. It continues our investments in the advanced technology program, manufacturing extension, and the national information infrastructure.

Americans also want, perhaps more than anything else, a good future for their children. And in an era when what you earn does depend on what you learn, that means, above all, education. Every one of our citizens must have the opportunity to learn -- Head Start and good schools when they're young, college loans when they get older, and job training throughout their working lives. A budget must honor our country's defining belief that education is the root to a prosperous and humane society. The President's budget does. It includes a 20-percent increase in major education and training programs, and a commitment to extend Head Start to one million more preschoolers by the year 20002.

Finally, Americans know that yesterday's government cannot meet tomorrow's challenges. In many areas of our federal government, we must dramatically change how we do what we do. A budget, therefore, must honor our commitment to build a government that works better and costs less. And, once again, the President's budget does. It furthers the progress we've already made by establishing world-class customer service, forging stronger relationships with local communities, and creating performance-based organizations that allow government service providers -- for example, like the patent office -- to do business like a business.

This President is balancing the budget without unbalancing our values. He's making history, and all of us who have worked with him to produce this budget are proud to be a part of the process.

Thank you.

DR. TYSON: I'm going to take over as moderator here.

Q Mr. President, have you heard from the congressional leaders?

THE PRESIDENT: I meet tomorrow.

END 2:17 P.M. EST