DEPARTMENTS
WASHINGTON INSIDER
 
img_201601-trippler
AARON TRIPPLER directs government affairs for more than 70 local sections and serves as
AIHA’s chief liaison with Congress and federal agencies. He can be reached at
(703) 846-0730 or atrippler@aiha.org.
Budget Deal Reached
BY AARON TRIPPLER, DIRECTOR, AIHA® GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
Just in time for the holidays, Congress passed, and the President signed, a budget accord that left most on the Hill with smiles on their faces and a belief that they could actually get something done. Even the President said this is the way Washington should work. The budget was the first enacted in six years. From 2010 through last year, Congress funded the government through continuing resolutions, which authorized federal agencies to continue spending at their current levels. The budget enacted in October provides an increase in total spending of $80 billion over two years, with half of the increase in defense spending and the other half in discretionary spending. It did not, however, appropriate funds for individual agencies. Congress had until December 11 to divvy up the funds. (Editor's note: following are the detailed appropriations for OSHA, MSHA, and NIOSH.)
 
Table 1. OSHA FY 2016 Appropriations (amounts in millions)
Safety and Health Standards: $20,000
Federal Enforcement: $208,000
Whistleblower Enforcement: $17,500
State Programs: $100,850
Technical Support: $24,469
Compliance Assistance: $136,745
Safety and Health Statistics: $34,250
Executive Direction and Administration: $10,973
TOTAL: $552,787
 
Table 2. MSHA FY 2016 Appropriations (amounts in millions)
Coal Enforcement: $167,859
Metal/Nonmetal Enforcement: $91,697
Standards Development: $5,416
Assessments: $6,976
Educational Policy and Development: $36,320
Technical Support: $33,791
Program Evaluation and Information Resources: $17,990
Program Administration: $15,838
TOTAL: $375,887
 
Table 3. NIOSH FY 2016 Appropriations (amounts in millions)
National Occupational Research Agenda: $115,500
Education and Research Centers: $28,500
Personal Protective Technology: $20,000
Mining Research: $61,300
Other Occupational Safety and Health Research: $112,721
National Mesothelioma Registry and Tissue Bank: $1,100
TOTAL: $339,121
 
Also notable is that Congress raised the debt limit. Without raising this limit, the government would have been unable to pay its bills. The debt limit will be reached once again in March 2017, far enough away that this issue won’t have much effect on the 2016 elections. FINES TO BE RAISED For years, AIHA and others have argued that OSHA should raise its monetary penalties for violations. Those in favor of raising these penalties argue that increased fines have an impact on employers. A recent study cited by OSHA seems to support the argument that increased fines do result in employers addressing worker health and safety. Opponents of increased fines say that since OSHA doesn’t use the existing cap on fines, there is no need to increase the cap. Fines were last raised in 1990. OSHA is one of the few federal agencies with civil penalties that don’t increase with inflation.
The budget deal approved by Congress and the President allows OSHA to raise fines annually in line with the Consumer Price Index and to institute a one-time “catch-up” adjustment of 82 percent to make up for twenty-five years of no increases.
The budget deal approved by Congress and the President makes some changes to this area. It allows OSHA to raise fines annually in line with the Consumer Price Index and to institute a one-time “catch-up” adjustment of 82 percent to make up for twenty-five years of no increases. How this item ended up in the final budget deal is a bit of a mystery. OSHA is usually a “forgotten” agency on the Hill. A specific inclusion of this nature is very unusual. Whether OSHA will choose to increase fines by 82 percent in one step remains to be seen. As of early December, there was no word from OSHA on the agency’s plans. REGULATORY REFORM STILL A HOT BUTTON ISSUE Nearly thirty legislative measures related to regulatory reform have been introduced in this session of Congress. While many of these measures will never even have a hearing, there are several that interest both Democrats and Republicans. It’s too soon to tell if any of these measures will be enacted, but a bipartisan group of Senators has taken the issue one step further by forming a “Senate Regulations Caucus” to address the long-term issue of regulatory reform. The new Senate Caucus comprises two Republicans, one Democrat, and one Independent. The purpose of the caucus is to “spearhead an overhaul of ineffective, duplicative, or outdated regulations so that businesses across the country can what they do best—create jobs and grow the economy.” Sounds good, but proof of success is a long ways away.
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SALARIES AND EXPENSES: FY 2016 REQUEST / FINAL BILL
 
Coal Enforcement: 175,769 / 167,859
Metal/Nonmetal Enforcement: 93,841 / 91,697
Standards Development: 6,070 / 5,416
Assessments: 8,122 / 6,976
Educational Policy and Development: 40,448 / 36,320
Technical Support: 34,583 / 33,791
Program Evaluation and Information Resources: 19,783 / 17,990
Program Administration: 16,316 / 15,838
 
TOTAL: 394,932 / 375,887