Clinton Budget Promises Meet Reality

SOBERED by grim budget statistics, President-elect Clinton and his top lieutenants are sounding more doubtful about some of his key economic campaign pledges.

That includes Mr. Clinton's vow to cut the federal deficit in half and his proposal for a tax cut for middle-income Americans.

Clinton conceded in a broadcast interview that meeting his goal of halving the deficit in four years might be beyond his grasp. He blamed soaring debt.

New questions about Clinton's promise for a middle-income tax cut were sounded here by communications director George Stephanopoulos and in Washington by budget director-designate Rep. Leon Panetta (D) of California.

In addition, transition officials said Clinton was likely to miss his goal of submitting an economic program to Congress by Jan. 21, the day after his inauguration.

"The deficit is much bigger than it was when I said that," Clinton told a Public Broadcasting Service interviewer when asked about his campaign promise to cut the deficit.

The PBS interview is to be broadcast Jan. 13 but excerpts were released Jan 11.

Clinton noted that the annual deficit appeared to be about $290 billion when he promised a year ago to cut it in half.

But President Bush, in his final budget last week, projected that the budget shortfall will hit a record $327 billion in fiscal 1993, which ends Sept. 30. Bush estimated it will be about $320 billion in 1998. Clinton said it might still be possible to trim $145 billion from the deficit in four years, even if that would no longer halve it. He said the new deficit figures mean deeper spending cuts will be needed.

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