President Clinton's economic package passed by the House of Representatives Thursday night relies too much on tax increases and not enough on budget cuts, Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest told a West County business association Friday.
The Republican, who represents the Eastern Shore and part of Anne Arundel, explained why he voted against the proposed five-year economic blueprint and the $16.3 billion stimulus package.
He said he supported an alternative plan backed by 18 other congressmen -- 17 of them Republican -- that offered a detailed list of cuts totaling $637 billion over five years, about $265 billion more than what the president proposed.
While praising Mr. Clinton for opening up the budget process to get all of Congress involved, he said the plan his group supported was never given any consideration.
"This is the first time that we've had a budget with this much input," he told members of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. "The president presented us with a challenge: 'Find more cuts.' But this alternative he didn't even look at."
Mr. Gilchrest said his plan included a line-item veto and a balanced-budget amendment and offered a detailed list of programs to be eliminated, something he complained was missing from the president's "unspecified" program.
He also said that the budget cuts in Mr. Clinton's plan all occur in the last two years of the five-year plan. Taxes account for most of the up-front savings, he said.
The alternative plan Mr. Gilchrest co-sponsored, the Solomon Consensus Plan, would have eliminated the president's energy tax and Social Security tax, which the congressman complained directly hit the middle class and elderly.
He said the proposal failed because it hit issues on both sides of the political fence.
"Many of the Democrats didn't want to support it because the cuts were too deep," Mr. Gilchrest said.
"Many of the Republicans didn't support it because it raised some taxes."
The congressman complained that too many representatives were wearing "No Tax" buttons, locking them into an uncompromising frame of mind.
"I think that some need to take off those buttons and be more flexible," he said.
Several business leaders asked Mr. Gilchrest how to cut government waste.
"I'm not a good one to talk to about perks because I don't even know what some of them are," he said, explaining that he just discovered that representatives can get their taxes done for free.
"This job is full of trivial and stupid perks that can be eliminated," he said. "You aren't going to save a lot on the budget, but it can help in the message you send home to the public."