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Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

SAVING THE BUDGET CANDLEGuest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike CrapoAn old farmer was once asked by a young man how it was he had become so wealthy."It's a long story," said the old man, "and while I'm telling it we may as well save the candle." And he put it out."You need not tell the story," said the youth. "I understand."With the natural and human-caused world events of the last four years, our nation has faced increasing deficits and unexpected financial obligations. Like the farmer in the story, itâ??s important to remember that tight national budget times require particular fiscal responsibility with regard to government programs and expenditures. Yet, this doesnâ??t mean increasing taxes or jeopardizing programs that provide meaningful assistance to the disadvantaged in our country. To the contrary, we can shore up federal programs to help finance disaster recovery at home and war efforts abroad, reduce the budget deficit, and keep our economy healthyâ??a win-win-win situation for all. For the first time in eight years, the Senate debated a budget reconciliation bill last week. According to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the primary purpose of the budget reconciliation process is to enhance Congressâ??s ability to change current law to better conform revenue, spending and debt-limit levels to the policies of the annual budget resolution. This year, each committee in Congress was tasked with saving a certain amount of money in its respective area of budget oversight. This process allows Congress to tackle irresponsible and unnecessary spending in mandatory federal programsâ??programs that comprise 59 percent of the budget. Growth in entitlement spending has increased to the point where many feel that the only way to pay for the war efforts and disaster relief is to raise taxes. I, for one, disagree. Tax increases take money out of the pockets of working Americans and out of the economy. What must be evaluated instead is the functionality and efficiency of major federal entitlement programs. The progress made by Congress this year is commendable and bodes well for our nationâ??s fiscal outlook, especially considering the aftermath of the natural disasters wrought by hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and Florida and the ongoing war in the Middle East. Some provisions in the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005 include:-5.3 million low-income students will be eligible for increased grant aid;-1.1 million low-income and disabled children could become eligible for Medicaid, with 700,000 children continuing to be served by SCHIP;-90 percent of the gross savings from deficit reductions come from non-low-income federal program reductions and reductions in payments for business transactions with the federal government;-Most of the remaining ten percent of gross savings result from reductions in overpayments to pharmacies and drug manufacturers and closing unfair Medicare eligibility loopholes;-Alterations to the Food Stamp program are not included in the Senate version of the bill.Saving the candle doesnâ??t mean reducing whatâ??s in our wallets, but working toward efficiency in federal programs, providing people with resources and incentives to be self-starters and encouraging personal financial responsibility. We cannot continue to build deficits that our children and grandchildren will have to pay for after we are gone. The budget reconciliation bill will preserve programs to help the disadvantaged, victims of the hurricanes, and keep us on a steady course to continue to reduce the federal budget deficit through preservation of a strong economy.WORD COUNT: 536