Appropriators Cast Doubt On Agencies’ 2005 Requests

Posted February 20, 2004 at 5:50pm

Appropriations subcommittee chairmen in both the House and Senate questioned Friday the 11.7 percent funding increase being sought by legislative branch agencies, just days before hearings on those budgets are set to begin.

Legislative branch agencies will seek nearly $4.4 billion — a $457 million increase from the current fiscal year — according to proposals outlined in President Bush’s fiscal 2005 budget. The requests, submitted individually by each agency, are not adjusted by the White House.

“I hope none of those agencies are seriously going to present those budgets to our subcommittee,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch.

The House is scheduled to hold hearings Wednesday on its own budget request, as well as those from the Government Printing Office, General Accounting Office and Library of Congress. The House operations budget is presented by the Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms and Chief Administrative Officer.

An aide familiar with the appropriations requests suggested the increases would receive considerable scrutiny: “It’s going to catch the committee’s eye pretty quickly.”

No legislative branch hearings were scheduled in the Senate as of press time Friday.

“The overall legislative branch request is quite large at [a jump of] 12 percent and it will be difficult to accommodate this level of increase,” Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), chairman of his chamber’s Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, said through a spokeswoman.

Nearly 39 percent of the overall increase would be directed to various projects under the Architect of the Capitol’s office.

AOC officials requested $571 million, an increase of $176 million over fiscal 2004 totals. The Architect’s budget includes funds for the maintenance and operation of the Capitol and House and Senate office buildings, as well as facilities housing the Library, Capitol Police and Capitol Power Plant.

The AOC is seeking approximately $161 million for the Library’s buildings and grounds, an increase of nearly $122 million.

A Congressional source familiar with the numbers said that figure includes $59.2 million for a “copyright deposit facility”; $39.5 million for additional storage modules at the Library’s Fort Meade, Md., facility; and $3.7 million to bring restrooms into compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

Under the proposed budget, the Architect would receive $106 million for the House office buildings, an increase of about $43 million.

Those funds include $10 million in garage-related projects; $7.5 million for “design renovation upgrades” in the Cannon Building; $4.9 million to replace windows in the Ford Building; and $4.7 million for emergency lighting in the Rayburn Building, the source said.

The Architect’s budget also includes a request that would provide $8.5 million for operations and maintenance of the Capitol Visitor Center itself.

AOC officials are asking for more than $40 million for Capitol Police buildings and grounds. The source said proposals include $12 million for construction of a firing range; $6.4 million for an off-site delivery facility; $5.9 million to lease space in the Government Printing Office and a private building on South Capitol Street; and $12.5 million to “build out” the GPO headquarters.

In its own budget, the Capitol Police Department is seeking $292 million, a 33 percent increase, for salaries, expenses and security enhancements. Police officials are once again seeking additional employees, looking to add 213 sworn officers and 155 civilian employees, which would swell the department to a total of 2,361 full-time equivalent employees.