[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[January 5, 1998]
[Pages 3-4]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Federal Budget and an Exchange With Reporters
January 5, 1998

    The President. Good afternoon and happy new year to all of you. I'm 
glad to be back at work, and I'm looking forward to 1998.
    We can begin the year with some good news. I can now say that we 
believe that the deficit this year will be less than $22 billion. That 
means that it will decline for the 6th year in a row, a truly historic 
event. Twenty-two billion dollars is a far cry from the $357 billion the 
deficit was projected to be this year when I took office or the $90 
billion it was projected to be when the balanced budget agreement was 
enacted. So we have come a very long way.
    I can also say that the budget that I present to the Congress in 
February will be a balanced budget for 1999. Again, this will be the 
first time in 30 years we've had a balanced budget, and that's good news 
for the American people and for the American economy. It continues the

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successful economic policy that we adopted beginning with the budget in 
1993, which was the first major step.
    We have followed a policy of investing in our people, expanding the 
sales of American goods and services overseas, and practicing fiscal 
discipline. We reversed 12 years of trickle-down economics in which the 
deficit of this country exploded year after year and our national debt 
was quadrupled. So we have taken a different course, and thanks to the 
hard work and productivity of the American people, it is working. And 
I'm very, very pleased about it.
    Now, what we have to do now is to build on it, first with the 
balanced budget to keep interest rates down and keep the economy 
growing, secondly with other policies which I will be outlining in the 
State of the Union. I welcome other people to the debate.
    But let me say, I want to caution everyone that I will do everything 
that I can to prevent anyone from using a projected future surplus as a 
pretext for returning to the failed policies of the past. We do not want 
to go back to the terrible conditions that paralyzed our Government and 
paralyzed our own people's potential in 1992 when I took office. We have 
to go forward.
    This is great news today. I'm very pleased by it. The American 
people should be pleased by it. But we should be determined to stay on 
the course and do what works. And that's my determination.
    Q. Are you ruling out a tax cut, Mr. President, with this surplus?
    The President. I do not--let me just say, I want to say just exactly 
what I said. We don't have a surplus. We can project a surplus, but we 
don't have one. And we've waited 30 years for a balanced budget. Between 
1981 and 1992, we projected all kinds of things and went out and spent 
the money on tax cuts and spending--both. We spent the money, and we 
quadrupled the debt, drove up interest rates, put our country in a 
terrible hole. We have dug ourselves out of that hole with a lot of 
effort and a lot pain. In 1993 it was a very difficult dig, and a lot of 
people paid a very high price for it. Then we had the overwhelming 
bipartisan support for the balanced budget.
    All I'm saying is that any policy we adopt must not--it cannot--run 
any risk of returning to the failed policies of the past. We got away 
from trickle-down economics; we're into investing and growing our 
future. We're doing it the old-fashioned way. I have been exhorting the 
American people for 5 years now to be responsible, to remember that we 
cannot have opportunity without responsibility. Well, that same rule 
applies to the Government. We have to set a good example. We have to 
create opportunity, and we can't do it unless we're also responsible.
    So whatever policies we adopt have to be within the framework of the 
budget to the best of our knowledge. We cannot take risks with the 
future that we have worked so hard to build.

Tobacco Legislation

    Q. Mr. President, are you going to call for cigarette tax increases 
to help pay for new initiatives?
    The President. I will--first of all, on the tobacco issue 
generally--I'll have more to say about this later, but keep in mind what 
my first priority is. My first priority is to protect our children from 
the dangers of tobacco, from the illegal dangers of tobacco. And I will 
propose a plan that I believe is best designed to do that, that will 
build on the settlement agreement that was reached earlier. And I will 
work with Members of Congress in both parties in good faith to try to 
pass comprehensive tobacco legislation that I think will achieve that 
goal. And I'll say more about the details later.

Press Coverage of President's Vacation

    Q. Mr. President, there's been some controversy today about whether 
the press invaded your privacy in St. Thomas. Do you feel your privacy 
was invaded, and where should the press draw the line, sir?
    The President. The answer to the first question is yes. The answer 
to the second question is that's why we have a first amendment; you get 
to decide the answer to the second question. But----
    Q. You didn't like your dancing picture? Everybody liked it.
    The President. Actually, I liked it quite a lot. But I didn't think 
I was being photographed.
    Q. Was it off limits, sir?
    The President. That's a question that you have to ask and answer.

Note: The President spoke at 1:20 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White 
House prior to a meeting with the economic team.