“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget — and I’ll tell you what you value.” — Joe Biden
The Biden administration’s FY 2024 Budget proposal is out, and although the Republicans are declaring it dead-on-arrival, it’s useful as a starting point and to see where the administration’s head is at.
According to the budget summary,
Workers power America’s economic prosperity, and to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, the Budget invests $2.3 billion, an increase of $430 million above the 2023 enacted level, in the Department’s worker protection agencies. The Budget would enable DOL to protect workers’ wages and benefits, combat exploitative child labor, address the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, and improve workplace health and safety
Overall Big Increase
OSHA’s budget is tiny. The current FY 2023 budget is a paltry $632 million out of a $6.9 trillion budget. My calculator doesn’t have enough space to try to calculate what OSHA’s budget is as a percent of the federal budget. Also, just to add some perspective, EPA’s budget is close to $10 billion.
Biden’s budget proposes to increase the total OSHA budget by 17% (and 432 new full-time employees), with increases distributed as follows:
Standards: Big Budget Proposal and Big Disappointment
The biggest increase would go into the Standards and Guidance Budget. And they need it. At the end of the Obama administration, the Standards budget was only $20 million, and Trump cut it 10% to $18 million. Only last year did it get slightly above $20 million again.
According to the Budget in Brief, “OSHA is planning to publish two final rules and six proposed rules. Proposed rules are issued following OMB review and are followed by public hearings. The final rules generally take at least a couple of years after the proposal is issued. The highest priorities among the rulemaking projects, according to OSHA , are Heat Illness Prevention, Prevention of Work Place Violence in Healthcare and Social Assistance, Tree Care, Emergency Response, and Walking Working Surfaces. Notably missing from this list the the comprehensive infectious disease standard and the Process Safety Management Standard which OSHA began working on after the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion in 2013.
It’s not clear which are the proposed and which are the final rules. None of the big ones (e.g. Heat or Workplace Violence) will be final and may not even reach a proposal. The Walking Working Surfaces is simply a clarification of the standard issued in 2016. Tree Care and Emergency response are also relatively small and have gone through the Small Business review (SBREFA). We may see proposals on those, but it’s unlikely they’ll be final. OSHA is also working on a number of small standards which could be counted in the mix, such as the walkaround rule, shipyard scaffolding, silica standard revisions, blood lead, addressing computer-controlled lockout-tagout and likely some whistleblower regs.
When this Presidential term ends, this administration will have issued no major standards.
The standards situation has been a major disappointment in this administration. Note that FY 24 ends a month before the 2024 Presidential election, so this is the full last budget of Biden’s first term. If (God forbid), Republicans take the White House in 2024, it is unlikely that any of the major standards (such as heat, workplace violence, infectious diseases or PSM) will make any progress and some may disappear from the Regulatory Agenda in a Trump or DeSantis administration — even if they’ve reached the proposal stage. As I’ve lamented before, aside from the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard and the ill-fated ‘test or vaccinate’ standard, when this term ends, this administration will have issued no major standards.
Enforcement also gets a substantial 16% increase which would include an additional 142 inspectors. OSHA’s Whistleblower Program which administers 25 different whistleblower laws would get a $5,640,000 (30%) increase and 55 additional employees.
State plans are likely to be disappointed with the 6% proposed increase which doesn’t even meet the the inflation rate.
One of the bigger increases (30%) goes to Federal Compliance Assistance. The main bulk of the increase ($10.7 million) goes to hiring staff train the influx of new compliance officers and whistleblower investigators from both Federal OSHA and State Plans.
Another large chunk ($8.8 million) goes to hiring 59 new outreach and compliance assistance staff
to expand the agency’s outreach to vulnerable workers. “This includes 54 new Compliance Assistance Specialists, and five Labor, Worker, and Family Liaisons to amplify outreach to organizations, employers, and workers in marginalized communities and high-hazard industries, including construction, grain handling, healthcare, and those that employ temporary, migrant, and underserved workers.
The State Compliance Assistance line gets a rather paltry 2% increase. This is the Onsite Consultation Program for small and medium size businesses. I would have thought, given that we have Republican House, that the Administration would have gone bigger in this area, although maybe they just want to let the House plus that up in return for increases in other areas?
And Harwood Grants get a $1 million increase. House Republicans will undoubtedly attempt to zero out the program as they generally do when they’re in control.
Mine Safety and Health Administration
MSHA would receive a 13% increase to increase enforcement and work on protecting workers from silica dust. MSHA is working on an updated silica standard, but no proposal has seen the light of day and they make nor predictions for a final. According to the regulatory agenda, an MSHA silica proposal will be issued next month, but no one actually expects that to happen.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
NIOSH, ” the only dedicated federal investment for the research needed to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses among the nation’s 161 million workers” will be the beneficiary of a 2% cut in its budget. Unclear where that cut is located, or why.
We have a long and likely depressing way to go before we get a final budget. First, this summer will see a brobdingnagian battle over the debt limit, which if the Republicans agree to take Medicare and Social Security off the table, would mean a 70% cut in all other government programs in order to reach a balanced budget in 10 years. We’ll see how that goes.
Then, if the worlds’ economies survive that, there will a huge battle over the FY2024 budget. The Republican House will undoubtedly look for major cuts — especially in their favorite agencies like OSHA, while the Democratic Senate will seek increases — hopefully significant increases, but I’m not holding my breath on that, given their record over the past couple of budget cycles. And by the time the real fight starts of passing the FY 2024 budget, we’ll be deep into the 2024 Presidential race.
Biden FY 2024 request (Thousands of dollars)
|FY 2023 Final||FY 2024 Proposal||Increase over FY 2023||% Change from 2023 Final|
|Safety and Health Standards||$20,100||$31,214||$11,114||55%|
|Federal Compliance Assistance||$77,762||$10,1073||$23,311||30%|
|State Compliance Assistance||$62,661||$64,160||$1,499||2%|
|Safety and Health Statistics||$34,750||$43,896||$9,146||26%|
|Mine Safety and Health Administration||$387,876||$438,094||$50,278||13%|
|National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health||$351,800||$345,000||-$6,800||-2%|