Federal agencies

Senate proposes stable funding for safety agencies, as House amendments seek to reduce budgets, block rules

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Photo: Senate Appropriations Committee

Washington – A Senate appropriations bill has OSHA, NIOSH, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration maintaining their current funding levels, and also seeks to keep OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program off the chopping block.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Sept. 7 sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration, giving the worker safety agencies the possibility that they could have stable budgets despite the House’s cost-cutting attempts.

“For the second year in a row, the committee has worked together in a tough fiscal environment to pass a bipartisan bill that reflects Americans’ priorities,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said in a Sept. 7 press release.

In the House, meanwhile, members of the Rules Committee are trying to reduce funding for those agencies via amendments added to its appropriations bill on Sept. 6. Members also are trying to keep OSHA from implementing its final rules on silica – set to go into effect Sept. 23 – and injury/illness reporting.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) put forth an amendment calling for a 1 percent cut to the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and their related agencies. In addition, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) proposed an amendment that would reduce MSHA funding and staffing by 10 percent.

Funding or any attempts to block regulations will not become clear until both chambers ultimately agree on a Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which could remain unresolved for months. Congress did not finalize FY 2017 funding until May 4 – seven months after the fiscal year started.

What likely will happen – given that recent budgets have not met the Sept. 30 deadline – is that one or more continuing resolutions will be required to keep funding the government, followed perhaps by a late omnibus appropriations bill, as in FY 2017.

Under the Senate bill, OSHA would receive $552.8 million. The House bill proposes to give the agency $531.5 million, and President Donald Trump’s Department of Labor budget request released May 23 allocates $543 million.

A portion of those cuts would come from the elimination of the Susan Harwood Grants, which provide funding to nonprofit organizations for the creation of worker safety training and education. In a House budget hearing on June 7, Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta said his department wants to supply direct training in place of the grants, potentially saving $10.5 million.

MSHA’s proposed funding in the Senate bill is $373.8 million. The House allocates $360 million, and President Trump has proposed $375.2 million.

NIOSH would receive $335.2 million in the Senate bill. The House bill has the agency’s potential budget at $325.2 million, while President Trump’s request allocates $200 million.

Under the Senate bill, DOL would receive $12 billion – $61.5 million less than in FY 2017. The House bill proposes a $1.3 billion cut, and President Trump is seeking a $2.4 billion decrease.

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