Testimony on CBO’s Appropriation Request for Fiscal Year 2019
Director Keith Hall testifies on CBO’s appropriation request for fiscal year 2019 before the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.
Testimony by CBO Director Keith Hall before the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives.
CBO is asking for appropriations of $50.7 million for fiscal year 2019. That amount represents an increase of $0.8 million, or 1.6 percent, from the $49.9 million provided to CBO for 2018. Of the total amount, nearly 91 percent would be used for personnel costs.
Reasons for the Requested Increase in Funding
Increases of $2.6 million for three priorities—to pay for current staffing, to bolster responsiveness and transparency, and to expand analytical capacity—would be significantly offset by onetime savings of $1.8 million this year. With the requested funding, CBO would be able to add 13 new employees to augment its capabilities.
Paying for Current Staffing
CBO requests an increase of $1.2 million to fund current staffing levels in 2019. That amount would be used for a small increase in employees’ average salary and benefits to keep pace with inflation. If such funding is not provided, CBO will need to shrink its staff and consequently provide less information and analysis to the Congress in 2019.
Bolstering Responsiveness and Transparency
CBO proposes to hire 20 new staff members by 2021 to bolster its responsiveness and transparency. In 2019, the agency would hire 10 of those new employees at a total cost of $1.0 million, mainly for salary and benefits. (The additional staff members would be hired partway through fiscal year 2019, so the addition in terms of full-time-equivalent positions, or FTEs, would be 8 rather than 10.) The new staff would help CBO respond to requests for information more quickly when there is a surge in demand. They would also allow CBO to supply more information about its analysis and models without reducing the valuable services that it provides to the Congress at its current staffing. The agency has shifted resources already to undertake such activities and has plans for further shifts, but many initiatives of great interest to the Congress could be undertaken only with more employees.
(The amount in CBO’s original budget request for 2019, submitted before the recently established appropriation for 2018, was $0.8 million.)
Expanding Analytical Capacity
CBO proposes to expand its analytical capacity primarily by adding three new health care analysts (a number equivalent to two FTEs) in 2019. The total cost would be $0.4 million ($0.3 million in personnel costs and $0.1 million in nonpersonnel costs, mostly for interagency agreements). Congressional interest remains high in modifying or replacing the Affordable Care Act and changing Medicare or Medicaid, and the new analysts would help the agency examine new approaches to do so.
(In CBO’s original budget request, the amount for “Expanding Analytical Capacity” was $0.6 million, but a portion of the requirement has been funded from the 2018 appropriation. So CBO has redirected $0.2 million from the originally proposed amount to address the priority “Bolstering Responsiveness and Transparency.”)
Applying Offsetting Savings
The increases for the three priorities are offset by $1.8 million in savings resulting from being able to use fiscal year 2018 funding to cover onetime costs for the migration of the agency’s data center and contractors’ support of transparency efforts and to pay for some multiyear contracts to acquire data and to install new communication lines.