WASHINGTON — President Bush appealed directly to the public on Saturday to tell Congress not to spend any more than what he is seeking in his budget blueprint.
"When money is left in Washington, there is a tremendous temptation for the government to use it. The point is simple: If you send it, they will spend it," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
"And this is why we need a balanced approach of moderate spending growth, debt reduction, and meaningful tax relief. This is the plan that Congress is now considering, and I hope you'll give it your support."
Bush proposes limiting government growth to 4 percent and cutting taxes by at least $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Senate Republicans on Friday discussed adding $60 billion to Bush's tax-cut package, and the White House signaled its approval.
"Some in Washington do not think a 4 percent spending increase is enough; They want government to take a much larger part of the surplus," Bush said.
"But think about it: For the past few years, average hourly wages have risen at a rate of 4 percent. If the taxpayer can get by on a 4 percent raise, the tax collector ought to be able to make do with 4 percent as well," the president said.
Bush said federal discretionary spending grew by 8 percent a year ago. "If this spending spree were to continue, we would drain the surplus by funding a permanently larger government," he said. "This would be bad for the taxpayer, and bad for the economy."
"My budget plan doesn't slam the brake on spending; it slows the growth of spending," he said. "It makes our increases in spending more realistic and reasonable. All in all my budget will provide the government with $100 billion more to spend in 2002. Even by Washington standards that is a lot of additional money, and it is enough."
As he has since assuming the presidency in January, Bush promoted an administration budget that includes increases in education and Medicare with cuts in agriculture, energy and other areas.
Bush has traveled to more than a dozen key political states since unveiling his economic plan, hoping to push wavering lawmakers to his side. He visited Maine on Friday and plans to travel to Missouri, Montana and Michigan this week. Aides also were preparing for what they said may be a major economic address Tuesday.
In his travels, Bush tries to counter Democratic claims that his budget and tax policies favor the rich and jeopardize the surpluses.
With the economy faltering, congressional Democrats and Republicans are rallying around the idea of some tax relief this year. But they disagree on whether to pass cuts for 2001 as a stand-alone bill or attach them to Bush's 10-year, across-the-board income tax cuts.