WASHINGTON -- Both parties' presidential hopefuls are racing to take advantage of President Clinton's pending announcement that the federal surplus for the next decade looks a colossal $1 trillion larger than it did in February.
Clinton is planning to unveil his new surplus projections as early as Monday, according to congressional Democrats, lobbyists and others who spoke on condition of anonymity. He also will propose using the budget bonanza for faster debt reduction, enhanced Medicare benefits and deeper tax cuts, they say.
The new forecast is expected to bring projected surpluses for the decade ending in 2010 to $1.9 trillion, excluding Social Security. That would more than double the $746 billion the White House predicted in February, a deluge of cash fueled by the formidable economy.
A deep, long-lasting recession could make the projected surpluses shrink or vanish.
But Treasury Department figures have shown unexpected mountains of federal revenue in recent months, leaving only the precise size of the updated surplus estimates unknown. Both major presidential campaigns have already begun trying to use the new figures to their advantage.
Vice President Al Gore, the presumed Democratic candidate, has used the numbers to justify a torrent of recent spending and tax proposals. These have included a 10-year, $500 billion tax-cut package for child care, education and other purposes; voluntary, tax-free retirement accounts financed partly by federal payments; and new spending for the environment, health and schools.
''The surplus is a result and a symbol of our prosperity,'' said Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway.
The comment underlined the Gore campaign's hopes of taking credit for the government's unprecedented fiscal health.
Aides to Texas Gov. George W. Bush have tried using the figures to rebut Democratic arguments that the likely Republican nominee's budget plans are irresponsible. Bush has proposed a $1.3 trillion, 10-year tax cut. He also would allow Social Security recipients to invest part of their payroll taxes that support the program in the stock market.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the Texan would use extra surpluses for debt reduction and strengthening Social Security -- both of which are highly popular with the public.
The extra money ''won't be used for more spending or tax cuts,'' Fleischer said.
Democrats said Clinton will make his tax-cut proposal bigger.
As part of that, he is expected to eliminate some of the tax increases he proposed in February to help pay for his budget initiatives. Most of those proposed tax increases had virtually no chance of being approved by Congress anyway, and dropping them will let him boast a bigger net tax-cut figure.
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