economics

March 18, 2010

Market Regulators Set to Get Boost

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 12:58 am
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By ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON And KARA SCANNELL

Financial-markets regulators would get more money under the president’s 2011 budget proposal, even as funding for other regulatory agencies is trimmed or held flat.

President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint, released Monday, calls for boosting the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s budget by $93 million to $261 million, up 55% from this year.

Budget Crunching

A look at how the Obama administration is counting on bringing in revenue and spending it in fiscal 2010.

Budget Stepping Stones

Learn more about the process through which the annual federal budget is authorized by Congress and signed by the president.

More interactive graphics and photos.

The White House is seeking a 13% increase in the annual allocation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, a $147 million boost to nearly $1.3 billion for the 2011 fiscal year.

For the CFTC, the White House wants almost half of the agency’s proposed increase to be contingent on Congress enacting a broad overhaul of financial-market rules that would include new responsibilities for both agencies.

Another regulator slated to get more money is the Environmental Protection Agency.

The proposed EPA budget calls for $43 million in new funding for initiatives to control greenhouse-gas emissions—an undertaking opposed by business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers. Overall, the 2011 EPA budget is projected to fall by about 3% from 2010 levels.

The Department of Transportation overall would get about $78 billion, a modest 2% increase from 2010.

Included in the total is a new budget allotment of $30 million to establish a federal transit-safety oversight program in the wake of deadly rail accidents in Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco. Currently, public transit is overseen by a patchwork of state agencies.

But at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—the department that oversees vehicle safety standards and handled a slew of recent auto recalls—spending would drop 4.9% to an estimated $136 million.

Spending for regulatory enforcement would remain flat for the second straight year, at $18 million.

After receiving a record $300 million increase last year, the Food and Drug Administration’s 2011 budget would remain essentially flat, increasing by $80 million to $2.43 billion.

These figures don’t include fees the agency collects annually from the drug, device and other industries to review product applications and inspect facilities. Including such fees, the budget request totals $3.7 billion compared with $3.2 billion in fiscal 2010.

The FDA likely won’t be able to boost its staff but it won’t have to cut staff, either, as it did for much of the early part of the last decade.

Food companies and drug makers could face more than $250 million in new fees under the budget blueprint. The fees would be used to review applications for generic drugs, to improve inspections of food facilities, and to cover the costs of re-inspecting drug-manufacturing plants.

The budget also proposes new fees to be collected for companies that want to export products.

The fees have been proposed in the FDA budget by various presidents for years but haven’t been approved by Congress.

The budget calls for a 4% increase, or $67 million more, for the Department of Labor’s agencies charged with protecting worker health, safety, wages, working conditions and retirement security.

The agency is also proposing a system of automatic workplace pensions along with initiatives to improve the transparency and adequacy of 401(k) retirement savings.

Inventors and companies would face a new 15% surcharge on patent fees as part of a $2.3 billion budget for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with the funds going to hire more patent examiners and upgrade technology.

Administration officials floated the surcharge proposal late last year. Mr. Obama recently called it “ironic” that at an agency charged with licensing American innovation, outmoded technology contributes to a three-year backlog in processing patent applications.

—Kara Scannell and Stephen Power contributed to this article.

Write to Elizabeth Williamson at elizabeth.williamson@wsj.com and Kara Scannell at kara.scannell@wsj.com

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