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After years of deep cuts, the agencies responsible for federal audits, investigations and public policy research might see some funds restored in fiscal 2015.
House appropriators considered modest budget increases for the Government Accountability Office and the Library of Congress during a Wednesday panel hearing.
Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., thanked GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro for accounting work resulting in a return of “$100 for every dollar invested” in the agency. He said the panel has seen the benefit of GAO oversight firsthand during construction of the Capitol Visitor Center and the eight-year Capitol Police radio upgrade project.
Support from Cole and his colleagues could help the GAO secure the $525 million it is requesting for fiscal 2015, an increase of $19.7 million, or 3.9 percent over current levels.
In fiscal 2010, the agency received $556.9 million, but Congress has slashed more than $50 million from that figure over the past five years, according to a Congressional Research Service report. The cuts resulted in a 15 percent staff reduction between 2010 and 2013, Dodaro said.
“I’m hopeful that we can focus on rebuilding the GAO, so you can recover and do your job as well as you always do,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the panel’s ranking member.
Librarian of Congress James Billington also won praise from Cole for the “amazing work” he has done to modernize and digitize the library’s collection of more than 155 million items “under very constrained budget resources.”
In recent years, the LOC has reduced its workforce by about 1,400 people. Between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2014, the LOC’s budget dropped from $643.3 million to $579 million, according to the CRS.
“Maybe we thought we could get away with that because nobody really understands or appreciates what the Library of Congress does,” Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., said, then predicted: “We’re going to pay a price for that.”
The de facto national library of the United States, which also serves as Congress’ parliamentary library, is asking for an additional $14.2 million, which would be a 2.3 percent increase over current levels.
Billington, who has been at the helm of the agency for 27 years, pointed out that the increase would only pay for costs the LOC is already incurring, including pay and price level increases.
Moran said he fully supports the request. “You’ve digitized this massive collection of information at the same time we’ve cut the budget and we’ve cut the workforce,” he said.