Budget Update: Compliance Assistance Wins Big Increase

The Senate has approved a long-overdue $328 billion appropriations bill to fund most government agencies in the current fiscal year, including OSHA.

The president indicated he would sign the bill, replacing a series of continuing resolutions that have frozen spending at last year's levels nearly four months into fiscal year 2004, the second consecutive year Congress missed the budget deadline by several months.

OSHA will receive $460.8 million, an increase of almost $10.5 million, or approximately 2 percent, from last year's budget. How the money will be distributed among OSHA programs reflects the policy priorities of Republicans, who control both houses of Congress as well as the White House.

Compliance assistance was the biggest winner, gaining, as it did last year, the largest percentage increase in funding. The 10 percent increase, or $6 million, was the largest increase in total dollars among OSHA programs as well. Spending on enforcement programs will rise $4 million to $167 million, while the safety and health standards budget remains constant at $16 million.

For the third year in a row, the administration sought and failed to eliminate the Susan Harwood training program with its focus on direct, personal education. The effort to replace it with a program that would emphasize technological media has found little support on Capitol Hill. Congress appropriated the same figure for training in 2004, $11 million, as it did in 2003.

At press time, the president was expected to release his proposed 2005 budget in late January, and it remains to be seen if he will try once again to abolish the Harwood program.

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