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The Government Printing Office is requesting the biggest percent increase of any legislative branch agency for fiscal 2008, but a GPO-themed appropriations hearing Tuesday focused on something not included in that budget proposal — a new building.
GPO officials have long advocated a move from their massive industrial-era complex on North Capitol Street to a smaller facility that would better address the needs of a 21st century print shop — a move officials said could save the government about $35 million a year.
Their goal is to either sell or lease the facility and use that money to pay for the costs of a new building, with no additional appropriations needed from Congress.
But to make that possible, Congress must pass legislation to make sure the money from a sale or lease is not given directly to the Treasury, agency officials testified.
“We need specific legislation in order to keep the money,” said Bob Tapella, the GPO’s chief of staff.
Led by then-Public Printer Bruce James, GPO officials spent much of the 109th Congress working with Members on the Joint Committee on Printing to come up with proper language for a bill, Tapella said. (A May 2006 report conducted by the Congressional Budget Office found that such a move could cost up to $320 million.)
But such legislation never was introduced, and the new panel is made up of different Members from that Congress. Tradition dictates that the joint committee would need to be the body such a bill comes out of, Tapella added.
“It’s a significant priority,” Tapella said. “This will be one of the first things we bring to the committee.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, gave her initial support for a move, telling GPO officials that “it would be a shame if another Congress goes by” and something isn’t done.
She pledged to talk to Democratic Members on the Printing Committee about the issue and asked her ranking member, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), to talk to those on the Republican side.
When the agency last thoroughly examined building sites a few years ago, 23 sites within the metropolitan Washington, D.C., region were found, Tapella said. Of those, nine were inside D.C., an important factor because GPO officials would like to stay within the capital.
It will take the agency approximately three years to make the transition to a new facility, Tapella testified, adding that officials are not sure if they would buy or lease a new building.
Wamp suggested the agency look into employing a hybrid between leasing and owning whatever facility becomes its new location. That would lessen certain responsibilities such as building maintainence while also ensuring the agency has a long-term home, Wamp said.
A similar method was undertaken by officials at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in his home state of Tennessee, for example.
“Once you get off the campus of Capitol Hill, that’s the way to do it,” Wamp said.
In the meantime, GPO officials are asking for money in their 2008 budget to repair their current facility.
Acting Public Printer William Turri told appropriators the agency needs about $4 million for building fixes, including funding for new elevators and roof repairs.