The Hand That Giveth to the Census, Also Taketh Away
The Census Bureau will most likely not get all of the roughly $7.5 billion it requested for this year's budget, in part because of the $1 billion it received in the economic stimulus package, according to congressional and Census sources. The White House will not comment on specific line items until it releases the preliminary budget report later this week, but administration officials say it will seek to cut the federal deficit in half over the next four years.
So why pump $1 billion into the Census coffers through the stimulus and then not meet its annual budget request? As Ben Pershing writes in today's Political Browser:
Whatever the specific details of the stimulus package, voters' desire for a big-ticket measure to get the economy moving again was always clear. At the same time, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that "deep public worry about the federal budget deficit has jumped since December." That could explain why Obama plans to push tough new budget rules, which would require mandatory spending cuts or tax increases to offset any spending increases or tax cuts that boost the deficit.
Regardless of Obama's political considerations, Census advocates are up in arms.
"A stimulus is extra. It’s not supposed to supplant regular government work, it’s supposed to be additional," said Phil Sparks of The Census Project. “That means that the very money that was earmarked for hard-to-count populations has now been cut back in the regular Census budget and that would be very disappointing."
Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO, a group keeping close tabs on next year's Census agrees. "The whole point of the stimulus, as I understood it, was to inject resources into the economy now that are needed," said Vargus. "If those funds are going to be supposedly requested anyway, there’s no net gain, no additional jobs than what had been anticipated.”
The roughly $7.5 billion requested would pay for Census preparations: the mailing of roughly 130 million Census forms, the hiring and training of temporary Census employees, the tabulation of Census data and the opening of temporary regional offices.
“This is not the time when you want to shortcut the Census," Vargas said, noting that Obama has yet to appoint a commerce secretary or Census Bureau director to oversee next year's headcount.
Let's wait and see if other government programs or agencies who made out well in the stimulus also receive less than requested in the president's budget. The broad details come out Thursday, while the multi-hundred-page document follows in April.
| February 23, 2009; 12:50 PM ET
Categories: Administration, Agencies and Departments
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