Budget battle: What got cut

By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- You can wave bye-bye to $4 billion in government spending.

President Obama signed a budget cutting stop-gap spending bill Wednesday after it sailed through the Senate with ease, garnering 91 votes.

Senators were happy to vote for the bill because it ensured the government will keep running for two more weeks, but also because the cuts in the measure are among the most obvious in the budget.

The bill terminates eight government programs, for savings of $1.24 billion, while an additional $2.7 billion in earmarks are eliminated.

On the chopping block were eight programs involving broadband access in rural communities, education, highway construction and the Smithsonian Institution.

All eight had been identified by both parties as wasteful and unnecessary.

The overlap wasn't an accident. House Republicans identified the program terminations in Wednesday's bill by combing their own budget plan and Obama's 2012 budget proposal for spots where they agreed.

"The bill that passed this morning focused on $4 billion of programs that we had ... suggested and recommended. It was free of those mischievous riders that were ideological in nature," said Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The programs that were cut fall into two umbrella categories: ineffective or duplicative.

The bill eliminated $75 million in election assistance grants, which are funds allocated to help states upgrade voting machines and voter rolls. Since 2002, Washington has pumped $3 billion into the program, but states have only found ways to spend $2 billion.

And that rural broadband program? The Agriculture Department's inspector general uncovered "abuses and inconsistencies" as well as "a lack of focus on the rural communities it was intended to serve."

The four education programs total $468 million, and are being eliminated for being outdated, ineffective or duplicative.

The highway funds, $650 million in total, were originally budgeted as a one-time payment for 2010 but never cut.

The remaining $2.7 billion in cuts cover almost 50 different earmark programs that will no longer be funded because House Republicans have instituted a new rule banning that type of spending.

After the bill was approved by the Senate, Obama said both parties should start working on a budget solution for the rest of the fiscal year that follows the example set by the two-week extension.

"This agreement should be bipartisan, it should be free of any party's social or political agenda, and it should be reached without delay," Obama said in a statement.

If that's the route lawmakers take, they won't have to look far for more savings.

On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office released a report that identifies tens of billions of dollars in savings that can be achieved by streamlining a bloated federal bureaucracy.

The GAO did not say exactly how much the inefficiencies cost taxpayers each year, but the report states that "savings and revenues could result in tens of billions of dollars in annual savings, depending on the extent of actions taken." To top of page

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