Offices, Agencies Seek a Modest Budget Bump

Posted February 1, 2010 at 6:52pm

Correction Appended

Funding for maintenance projects, technology upgrades and staffing increases pushed the legislative branch funding request for fiscal 2011 to about $5.2 billion, or a 7.3 percent increase over 2010 levels.

The request — outlined in the budget President Barack Obama released Monday — is widely considered a wish list for Congress’ offices and agencies. Unlike the rest of the president’s budget, it does not go through the Office of Management and Budget, and Members usually appropriate far less than the original request.

But the request can give some insight into the priorities of Congressional agencies. The Architect of the Capitol, for example, is hoping to catch up on long-delayed maintenance projects, requesting almost $80 million for the “maintenance, care and operation of the Capitol.— That’s more than double the $33 million appropriated for the 2010 fiscal year. The agency is also hoping to get double the money for Library of Congress buildings, requesting $101 million.

In total, the AOC is asking for a budget of about $690 million, an almost 15 percent increase over its 2010 appropriation.

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki declined to discuss the specifics of the maintenance projects, but she said the request reflects the agency’s desire to catch up on close to $2 billion of necessary maintenance. In the past, acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers has described long-neglected cracks, leaks and corrosion that threaten to wreak havoc on House and Senate buildings.

“We continue to address and prioritize a significant backlog of deferred maintenance and capital renewal projects to carry out our mission to care for the Capitol complex,— she said in an e-mail, “and our FY 2011 request reflects that continued effort.—

The Capitol Police department is also hoping for an almost 15 percent increase, from about $328 million in fiscal 2010 to $376 million in fiscal 2011.

The request is far less than in the past, partly because the department did not have to ask for $71 million to replace outdated radios. Police officials had lobbied Congress for years for the funds to purchase a new radio system; last year, Obama finally provided most of the money in a war supplemental.

Spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider declined to give any details or confirm the department’s total request, citing a policy to not discuss “pending legislation.— But about $15 million would go to salaries and more than $30 million would go to “general expenses— such as training and equipment, according to the president’s budget.

Other agencies are requesting relatively small increases. The Government Accountability Office is hoping for an 8 percent increase for a total budget of about $601 million, while the Government Printing Office is asking for a 13 percent increase. The GPO’s request of $166 million would help meet funding shortfalls and technology upgrades, spokesman Gary Somerset said.

The Library of Congress, meanwhile, is hoping for a 4.6 percent increase, focusing on a handful of projects and construction upgrades. Spokesman Matt Raymond said the $675 million request was “constrained.—

“The Library held all program increases to a bare minimum in the hope that the appropriations committees would support AOC’s request for the construction of the Library’s 5th module of the Ft. Meade Complex for book storage ($16.9 million),— he said in an e-mail. “One of the Library’s highest priority program increases ($4.9 million) is a request for [the Congressional Research Service] to broaden its research expertise and enhance technology to support the products and services it provides to the Congress.—

Overall, this year’s request is low in comparison to previous years. In fiscal 2010, Congress and its agencies asked for a 15 percent jump, while in fiscal 2009, they asked for a 17.4 percent increase. That restraint is represented in the request for the Members’ Representational Allowances, which fund office budgets: House officials ask for a 1 percent increase for a total of about $671 million. Senators, however, are looking at a possible 8.5 percent increase for a total of about $458 million.

Correction: Feb. 2, 2010

The article gave the incorrect budget request for the Congressional Research Service. CRS requested $4.9 million, not $49 million.