After trimming his original plan slightly, House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young (R-Fla.) is closer to gaining his panel's approval for a $29.1-billion supplemental spending package for the current fiscal year. The committee began considering the bill on May 9, and is scheduled to resume work late on May 14. Key elements of the package include: —Restoring $4.4 billion in fiscal 2003 highway aid that President Bush proposed to cut; —$15.8 billion for the Dept. of Defense, mostly for operations, personnel and equipment costs —$5.8 billion for homeland security, including $4 billion for the Transportation Security Administration —$5.5 billion to help New York recover from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Among the highlights for construction are: $850 million within the TSA allocation, to reconfigure airports for new explosive-detection machines; and $75 million in grants to port authorities for seaport security upgrades.

In addition, the Corps of Engineers would receive $128 million and the Dept. of Energy $218 million for security improvements at their facilities.

The State Dept. would get $201 million for renovation and new construction at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, and to acquire a site and build a new chancery in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

New York's $5.5-billion portion of the package includes: $1.8 billion to rebuild Manhattan subway lines damaged in the attacks; $167 million for road reconstruction: $2.75 billion in disaster relief to be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and $750 million in Community Development Block Grants for aid to businesses affected by the attacks.

Young originally proposed a $29.8-billion overall package, $1.4 billion more than President Bush had sought, but the chairman cut his initial plan by about $700 million before the committee took up the measure.

The package restores $4.4 billion in fiscal 2003 highway aid that President Bush proposed to slice. It does that by setting at zero for 2003 the calculation under a Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century mechanism that annually matches highway funding to Highway Trust Fund receipts. That TEA-21 Revenue Aligned Budget Authority mechanism produced the estimated $4.4-billion reduction, due partly to the soft economy's impact on gas-tax revenue.

The bill's language on the highway adjustment was modified from Young's original proposal, which would have nullified the revenue adjustment provision itself for 2003.

The change represents a victory for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders, who feared that abolishing the "RABA" provision, even for one year, would set a bad precedent for coming discussions on the bill that succeeds TEA-21. That successor legislation is due in 2003