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Hill Agencies Seeking Post-CR Funding Hikes

Reacting in part to a continuing resolution that kept funding levels in fiscal 2007 at 2006 levels, legislative branch agencies are requesting big boosts in President Bush’s $2.9 trillion fiscal 2008 budget, which was released Monday.

Leading the pack is the Government Printing Office, which is asking for a 48.6 percent hike in its funding compared with last year’s totals.

But other legislative branch agencies also are seeking hefty jumps. The Office of Compliance is requesting a 31.9 percent increase in funds, and the Architect of the Capitol’s office is seeking a 28.5 percent increase.

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), the ranking member on the newly revived Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, said the steep increases present “a textbook case of the effects of the CR.”

“This is clearly a response to the continuing resolution,” he said. “The budgets are not funded at the normal levels.”

But even without the legislative branch CR, budget requests typically are higher than the eventual totals that Congress will fund. The Congressional agencies send their funding requests to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which incorporates them into the president’s annual budget request without change. The requests typically are considered “wish lists” made by the agencies at the start of the appropriations process, and over the next few months, Congressional leaders usually pare them down.

In past appropriations cycles, Members repeatedly have expressed concerns about granting double-digit increases for the legislative branch while other federal agencies have received much more minor boosts.

The GPO is requesting $182 million for fiscal 2008, up from $122.4 million last year.

One of the reasons for such a steep increase is because the agency will print the U.S. Code this year, something that takes place every six years, according to an agency spokeswoman.

GPO officials also are asking for money for its Congressional Printing and Binding fund, which has been “flat funded” for three straight years, spokeswoman Veronica Meter said.

Plus, the agency is asking for $10.5 million to complete its future digital system, a project that will digitize all federal documents, along with money to fix the agency’s aging buildings, continue the agency’s retraining program and funds for IT projects, Meter said.

Meanwhile, the Office of Compliance is requesting $4.1 million, compared with $3.1 million in the previous year.

And after leading legislative agency request increases in the past two budget requests, the AOC is asking for $472 million for fiscal 2008, compared with $367 million last year.

A large chunk of the request is for the Capitol Power Plant. The AOC is asking for $111.2 million for the complex, up from $73.1 million in 2007. A sizable chunk of those funds is expected to go toward fixing tunnels beneath the plant that have been plagued by health and safety issues.

The AOC also is seeking $34 million for the cost-plagued Capitol Visitor Center next year. (See CVC Watch, p. 3.)

Interesting enough, the AOC is seeking a 30 percent boost in funding to maintain the Senate Office Buildings (to $87.2 million from $67 million), but a 15 percent decrease to maintain the House buildings.

And in a separate request, the AOC is asking Congress for $9.8 million for the Botanic Garden, a 27.1 percent increase in funds compared with last year’s $7.6 million total.

The Library of Congress is seeking a 14.1 percent boost, to $682.2 million from $598 million.

The Congressional Research Service would be allocated $108.7 million, compared with $101 million in the CR. The copyright office would lose funds, going from $58.6 million in 2007 to $51.6 million in 2008.

The Capitol Police, meanwhile, are seeking a 16.8 percent jump, to $299 million from $255.9 million.

But there are some single-digit budget increases found in the requests.

The Government Accountability Office is requesting $523.7 million, up 8.5 percent from $482.4 million. And the Congressional Budget Office is asking for $38 million, up 7.1 percent from $35.5 million.

One of the few offices asking for a decrease in funding is the Office of the Legislative Council of the Senate, and it’s a very modest decrease, down 1 percent to $5.39 million from $5.44 million.

John McArdle contributed to this report.

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