President Biden has released his Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Proposal. On one hand, his proposal for OSHA and MSHA are big disappointments. For most of OSHA’s line items, the President is proposing flat funding — flat with FY 2023 which ended last September 30.

The President’s OSHA proposal is only 3.6% more than the agency received in FY 2023, the only major increases coming in enforcement and in Federal Compliance Assistance for new AI training technology. Last year the President requested a 17% increase over FY 2023 for OSHA.

OSHA’s current budget is 632.3 million. The President’s request would increase it to $655 million.

MSHA’s current budget is $394 million and the President’s request would increase that to $410 million, a 4.1% increase over FY 2023.

For a President who once said “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget — and I’ll tell you what you value,” this is a sorry statement of values.*

What Does it Mean?

Now, a few observations.

First, you may already be confused with all of these fiscal years. The problem is that at the same time the President released his proposal for FY 2025, Congress has not yet finalized its FY 2024 OSHA or MSHA budgets yet–with almost half of FY 2024 gone already.

I know from painful personal experience that top OSHA and MSHA officials are tearing their hair out: Operating under an FY 2023 budget due to several continuing resolutions, but not knowing what they will have available to spend for the rest of FY2024 (which ends September 30). Will they have an annual cut that has to be squeezed into the last 6 months of FY 2024? And, of course, no clue about what FY 2025 will look like, who will be the President and who will control Congress.

Second, none of this matters. When the opposition party is in charge of either the House or the Senate, they routinely declare the President’s proposal “dead on arrival” and go forth putting their own budget ideas into legislation.

Third, it is highly unlikely that the FY 2025 budget will become law before the next election and the newly elected President and Congress take office in January 2025.

What are the Details?

That being said, the new OSHA and MSHA proposals are disappointing. Or they may be a recognition of reality.

As I mentioned above, the bottom line for OSHA is only a 3.6% increase compared with a 17% increase in the President’s last budget proposal. The only line item to receive a significant increase is enforcement, which would be increased by $15.8 million or 6.4%. That would include 14 new inspectors (CSHOs).

And OSHA is getting into AI:

The request also includes $342,000 in this budget activity for HoloLens, an artificial intelligence technology used to help train CSHOs by providing realistic virtual hazardous workspaces and allowing for application of hazard recognition techniques without physical exposure to hazards or requiring training to occur offsite at actual workplaces or labs.

The terminally starved standards budget would receive only a 4.1% increase (as compared to a proposed 55% increase from 2023 to 2024) — basically flat funded. More disappointing is the plan to issue three proposals — not final standards — in FY 2025: Workplace Violence, Infectious Diseases and Tree Care. OSHA has been working on Infectious Diseases since 2009 and Workplace Violence since 2016. Who knows when those would be finalized? If there’s a Trump administration, the answer is “never.”

The agency plans to issue 3 final standards in FY 2025, but no clue as to what those are. No mention is made of OSHA’s heat standard, just that the agency will increase its compliance assistance

Budgets for OSHA’s 27 state plans would remain flat, compared with a proposed 6% increase in Biden’s FY 2024 proposed budget.

MSHA would receive 4.1% increase overall and a 6.5% increase for enforcement. Standards development would remain flat.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) would be essentially flat funded at $363.2 million.

The Wage and Hour Division which oversees fair pay and child labor would receive a 8.9% increase in the President’s budget.

Disaster Still Looms

So. Disappointing or a recognition of reality?

Dedicated Confined Space readers will remember last July when House Republicans released their disastrous FY 2024 budget proposal. That budget would have cut OSHA funding by $95 million – a 15% reduction — and would have cut MSHA by 29%. Just for good measure, Republicans responded to the growing epidemic of child labor by cutting  the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division — the agency that enforces child labor protections — by $75 million, almost 30%.

Then to add insult to injury (and death), when the OSHA budget came to the floor of the House of Representatives last Republicans added amendments that would have cut the salaries of the heads of OSHA and MSHA to $1 each, and prevented MSHA from issuing its silica standard.  Happily, the vote on the floor was postponed — until later this month.

The Democratically-controlled Senate was also bad — though not nearly as bad as the House — recommending an almost $4 million cut from OSHA’s FY 2023 and a flat budget for MSHA. So it seems highly unlikely that the worker protection agencies will be seeing any kind of increase in FY 2024. That bill was never voted on either.

Perhaps President Biden was just recognizing reality when proposing the meagre FY 2025 budget. Given the disastrous House proposal and the disappointing Senate FY 2024 proposal , the White House may have figured that even a small increase over FY 2023 would look good.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that FY 2024 is looking pretty bad for worker protection agencies any way you look at it. The President’s FY 2025 budget is based on that pessimistic outlook. If, by some chance Democrats win the Trifecta:  Biden wins, Democrats take back the House and keep the Senate —  things could look up next budget season.

Only time –and hard work this election season — will tell.


* I want to amend my less-than-supportive characterization of Biden’s budget proposal. Someone pointed out to me that this was a product of the debt ceiling agreement Biden reached with former Speaker-of-the-House Kevin McCarthy last year. That agreement included measures to limit or reduce certain federal funding for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025. The agreement limited non-defense programs, other than veterans’ medical care, to $1 billion below the 2023 level.

On the other hand, House Republicans are trying to undermine the agreement by pressing for spending far below that deal, so…

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