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Tech a priority in proposed federal budget

In his proposed fiscal budget for the year 2000, President Clinton has included major funding for tech-related programs and research.

Even though his job is on the line, President Clinton still is making time to plug his technology agenda.

In his proposed fiscal budget for the year 2000, Clinton has included major funding for tech-related programs and research. The budget sets aside $1.8 billion for the administration's High Performance Computing and Communications and Information Technology initiatives. The latter program could get $366 million earmarked for long-term research into advanced applications and the economic and social impact of information technology.

On the education front, the White House allotted $450 million for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, up $25 million from previous funding levels. The fund allocates money to states to purchase computers, Net access, and software for schools that apply for grants.

The administration's budget also includes $65 million for community-based technology centers, $75 million for technology training for new teachers, and $30 million for a new middle school teacher training initiative.

Clinton also asked for $30 million for a digital library program. If he gets that funding, school children could get access to an archive of science and math information and literary classics, as well as to the Smithsonian Institution collections and information about National Park Service monuments.

"We ought to say to all of our schools: 'We want to spend more money for better-trained teachers. We want to build or modernize 5,000 schools because we're tired of our kids going to schools where they spend all day in a house trailer because it's so overcrowded, or they go to a school that's so broken down, we can't even hook it up to the Internet because the school won't take the connection,'" Clinton said on Monday during a speech at a Democratic National Committee luncheon in Boston.

Promoting Net access in schools and preparing students for the high-tech workforce is a goal that will no doubt carry over into the presidential campaign of vice president Al Gore, who is expected to push more initiatives for people with disabilities. Clinton's proposed budget includes a $1,000 tax credit for work-related expenses for disabled people, to help them recover some of the costs of their technology needs.

The White House budget also makes room for the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit. Set to expire this summer, the credit is coveted by the high-tech industry and would be extended through June 30, 2000, at a cost of $2.4 billion. Extending the credit is a main lobbying goal this year for groups like Silicon Valley's TechNet.