On Safety

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Obama’s budget: A bigger OSHA

February 13, 2015
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President Barack Obama is seeking the largest boost to OSHA spending since he entered office. But with a Republican-controlled legislature, will he receive the increase he’s looking for?

Obama’s first budget proposal (fiscal year 2010) sought to increase OSHA’s funding by more than $50 million. With Democrats in control at the time, he came close to getting that amount with a $45.62 million increase, one of the agency’s largest ever.

In the years since, the administration has faced budget crises, sequestrations and government shutdowns. Although Obama has, in most cases, continued to seek increases to OSHA funding, those attempts haven’t come close to his first budget proposal.

Until now. With a FY 2016 budget request of $592.10 million – more than $40 million above current levels – OSHA could receive its largest funding allocations in the agency’s history.

Of course, Republicans control both the House and Senate, and they would have to agree to the plan. I don’t see much of a fight over a small agency such as OSHA, but I likewise don’t believe Obama’s going to get everything he’s hoping for.

Whistleblower protection is a fairly bipartisan idea, so Obama’s request to increase funding by $5 million shouldn’t be too controversial.

Where things get sticky in his proposal is under standards development and federal enforcement, for which the administration is seeking a $3.3 million and $17.6 million increase, respectively. Given the Republicans’ historically sour view of enforcement in favor of compliance assistance, I have a hard time seeing that dramatic rise happening.

I can see a compromise of sorts developing, however. Right now, Obama’s OSHA budget would increase funding compliance assistance by $4.6 million. If the Obama administration agrees to sign off on more money for compliance assistance, the GOP might sign off on more funding for enforcement – just not as much as Obama wants.

Will OSHA get any type of substantial budget increase for 2016? What will Republicans push for, and what will Obama agree to? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Obama's OSHA budget through the years
Fiscal Year Proposed* Actual*
2009   $513.00
2010 $563.62 $558.62
2011 $573.10 $558.62
2012 $583.39 $565.86
2013 $565.47 $564.79
2014 $570.52 $552.25
2015 $565.00 $552.79
2016 $592.10  
*In millions of dollars

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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