Capitol Police Seek Supplemental Boost to Budget
In an unusual move to secure addition funds for the Capitol Police, Chief Terrance Gainer has made a direct appeal to the Office of Management and Budget for nearly $60 million in supplemental funds.
The request, made in a Jan. 27 letter to OMB Director Joshua Bolten, was followed Monday by the publication of the agency’s fiscal 2006 funding request, which includes an additional 25 percent increase over the current year’s spending.
The January letter seeks an additional $36 million for Capitol Police salaries — including overtime and and hazardous duty pay — as well as $23 million for the department’s general fund, for “related emergency expenses.”
The supplemental funds, if approved, would bring the agency’s fiscal 2005 budget to approximately $292 million, the amount department officials had sought during the appropriations process last spring.
A Capitol Police spokeswoman said Gainer was unavailable for comment Monday, and assistant Police Chief James Rohan declined to comment, citing a meeting with Appropriations Committee officials later this week.
However, Rohan did briefly address the agency’s $290 million fiscal 2006 budget request, outlined in President Bush’s budget released Monday.
“The FY06 budget provides for the annualization of previous years’ expenses,” Rohan said in a statement provided to Roll Call. “To continue with our current protective security posture, an increase in general expenses was proposed.”
The budget request would more than double the agency’s general fund — which covers a range of expenses from equipment to medical, forensic and professional services — to $60 million from the $29 million included in the fiscal 2005 omnibus spending bill.
The department’s payroll, which includes both officers and civilian employees, would also grow by approximately $27 million to more than $230 million.
In addition, the Capitol Police have submitted a request through the Architect of the Capitol for the design a new off-site delivery center to screen items destined for the Capitol or the House and Senate office buildings.
The budget figures released Monday do not provide specific details for the project, which would replace an existing facility on P Street Southeast (the proposed site of the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium), but Rohan said the $35 million request includes “design money” for the project.
The request marks a nearly 500 percent increase over the $5.9 million allocated to the AOC for Capitol Police buildings and grounds in fiscal 2005.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who served as ranking member on the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch during the 108th Congress, questioned the department’s request, noting the wide-ranging budget cuts lawmakers are expected to make in programs that benefit the elderly or support education.
“I think we ought to think twice before taking care of our own needs first,” Moran said. “We ought to be careful about the increases we give ourselves, even if it is for our own security.”
The Virginia lawmaker criticized Gainer’s decision to seek supplemental funds directly from OMB, rather than through the Appropriations panels.
“They’re not suppose to get away with that,” added Moran, who said he has not seen a copy of the request, “but if we let them get away with it ,then that’s going to become their M.O.”
A House Appropriations Committee spokesman declined comment on any of the legislative branch proposals included in the budget released Monday, noting that lawmakers have yet to receive detailed justifications for the requests.
Appropriations spokesman John Scofield did note that discretionary spending for the legislative branch typically tracks the overall increase provided to executive branch agencies.
“We typically provide Congress … with the same overall increase that’s been provided for the government,” Scofield said.
Although legislative branch agencies submit their requests for publication in the president’s annual budget, the figures are not reviewed by the White House.
Among the largest increases being sought by legislative branch agencies in the fiscal 2006 budget process is the AOC’s request for $506 million, a 44 percent increase over its current $352 million budget.
That proposal includes $72 million in additional funds for the Capitol Visitor Center, the 588,000-square-foot subterranean center located beneath the East Front.
That figure includes $35.3 million in funds for the CVC’s operation costs. A specific use for the remaining $36.9 million is not designated, but would presumably be applied to construction costs for the facility.
The CVC’s price tag now stands at $421 million, but a recent Government Accountability Office analysis suggested that total could grow by as much as $100 million before the center’s scheduled opening in 2006.
The Architect’s request also includes a considerable increase in its budget for the Library of Congress’ buildings and grounds. The $83 million proposal marks a 108 percent increase over the current $40.1 million budget.
It is not immediately clear what the funds could be used for, and an AOC spokeswoman did not return a telephone call Monday seeking comment.
The Botanic Garden would also see its budget grow by nearly 68 percent under the AOC’s request, to $10.6 million from its current $6.3 million.
The Capitol building is among the few areas that would see a reduction in funds under the Architect’s budget, dropping 6.1 percent to $27 million.
A number of legislative branch agencies are seeking relatively smaller increases, including the Government Printing Office, which produced the president’s four-volume budget request. The printing agency is seeking an 8 percent increase that would put its budget at approximately $131 million.
Similarly, the Office of Compliance, the watchdog agency created under the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, is looking to increase its budget to $2.6 million, a 9.1 percent increase from the current fiscal year, while the Capitol Guide Service, which provides public tours of the Capitol, has asked for $4.3 million, an 11 percent increase over its current $3.8 million budget.
The Attending Physician’s Office, which is staffed by Navy personnel and considered a joint budget item, requested an $1.8 million budget, an increase of 9.2 percent over its current funding level.
Among the most modest requests, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office put in for a 2.6 percent increase, which would bring its budget to $35.9 million.
Likewise, the GAO will ask for $486 million, a 3 percent increase over its current $471 million budget.
If its proposal is accepted, the Joint Economic Committee would receive a 3 percent increase to $4.3 million, and the Joint Taxation Committee would receive a 4.1 percent, bringing its budget to $8.8 million.
In addition, both the House and Senate will ask for additional monies for their individual operational funds.
In the House, officials will request $1.128 million, a 7.5 percent increase. The Senate’s operation fund includes a 13 percent increase, bringing the total request to approximately $823 million.