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House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) warned Friday that it will be nearly “impossible” for Congress to fund the combined $3.2 billion sought by legislative branch agencies for fiscal 2007, and he instructed agency chiefs to pare down their expected budgets.
The collective funds sought by legislative branch agencies including the Library of Congress, Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police would amount to an 11 percent increase, approximately $325 million, over the current fiscal year.
“It is going to be difficult if not impossible” to fulfill those requests, Lewis said at the outset of the full-committee hearing. He suggested that the Congressional support agencies will need to “determine reductions in those requests.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who acted as ranking member in place of absent Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), echoed Lewis’ concerns.
“I think it is going to be difficult to provide the increase requested,” Moran said.
Among the apprehensions cited by both lawmakers were portions of the Library of Congress’ fiscal 2007 budget request, including funds the agency has requested for its building and grounds via the Architect of the Capitol’s office.
“It’s going to be difficult for the committee to provide all of these direct funds,” Lewis told Librarian of Congress James Billington.
LOC officials are seeking $67.4 million through the AOC budget in the coming fiscal year — a 50 percent increase — in addition to the agency’s own $628.5 million request, a 4 percent rise over its current budget.
A majority of those funds, $54.2 million, would be used to construct a 162,000-square-foot storage facility at Ft. Meade, Md., already home to other LOC storage facilities.
In response to a query from Moran over the cost of the project — “Why is a storage facility so expensive?” he asked — LOC officials noted they are studying the cost projections and hope to have a report in coming weeks.
“I think that you’re being ripped off by the Architect of the Capitol ... as well as the Corps of Engineers,” Moran told LOC officials. “It seems excessive.”
Billington also requested $14.4 million in funds for the Open World Leadership Center, an increase of 4 percent from the current year.
The Appropriations panel also reviewed the Government Printing Office’s $151.5 million request for the coming year, an increase of 24 percent, or $29.3 million.
“Whenever I ask you for money, I ask for it on an investment basis,” Public Printer Bruce James told the panel.
Among the initiatives James listed in the fiscal 2007 request are continued retraining of the work force to handle changes in technology, as well as $2 million in funds to support the digitization of older documents now available only in print formats.
A portion of the increase will also be used to produce the 2006 edition of the U.S. Code, which is required by law to be updated every six years.
During the hearing, James also discussed the GPO’s push to relocate its facilities out of the North Capitol Street location it has occupied since 1860. GPO officials submitted a formal plan for the project in 2005 and are waiting for oversight panels in the House and Senate to act on the matter.