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Clinton uses veto to whittle $20-million from bills

A cemetery for veterans, a solar energy demonstration project and a NASA telescope were among 10 government projects worth $20-million that President Clinton eliminated Saturday with his line-item veto authority.

The projects were small parts of large spending bills. The White House said seven were cut from a $69-billion measure financing veterans, housing, environmental and other programs. The other three were tweezed out of a $42-billion transportation bill.

One U.S. senator immediately attacked as "a dreadful mistake" the decision to cut a $450,000 appropriation for an underground emergency center in Arab, Ala. The central Alabama town is in a tornado-prone area, where Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said at least 59 people have died in storms in the past 10 years.

"I am horrified that President Clinton would risk even one life for the $450,000 that he says he will save with this line-item veto," Shelby said in a statement.

Before Saturday, Clinton had cast 63 line-item vetoes on six bills, mostly erasing small defense programs and military construction projects.

Combined, the vetoes would save $1.9-billion during the next five years _ an impressive sum but a tiny percentage of almost $9-trillion in federal spending during that period.

The administration, which announced the cuts as Clinton hobnobbed with rich donors at a posh golf resort in northern Florida, said the projects were being cut because they duplicated other government projects, were ineligible for government funding or were not needed.

The Office of Management and Budget and the agencies administering the projects recommended the cancellations, the White House said.

Among seven projects worth $14-million cut from the veterans bill:

+ A veterans' cemetery in Fort Sill, Okla. The facility is not needed, the administration said, because the Department of Veterans Affairs just opened a cemetery and will open four others in the next two years. The veto will save $900,000 in 1998.

+ A $600,000 solar wastewater demonstration project.

+ A $500,000 water and sewer project in McConnellsburg, Pa.

+ A police training facility in Arab, Ala., that would have cost $15,000. The project was not eligible for a block grant it had obtained, the administration said.

Out of the $42-billion transportation bill, Clinton whittled three projects: a $5.3-million railroad dock project in Alaska, a $500,000 project providing funds to private companies to set up an electronic bulletin board for surplus transit equipment and the $450,000 Arab, Ala., project.