Solis, DOL Assistant Secretaries Outline 2013 Budget

The department's FY2013 budget request would cut MSHA's funding slightly and raise OSHA's slightly. Continued support for VPP and more funding to investigate whistleblower claims are highlights of OSHA's budget.

The U.S. Department of Labor has posted the details of its FY2013 budget request, which would leave funding for OSHA and MSHA basically flat. OSHA's funding of approximately $565.5 million would be 0.12 percent above its FY2012 funding level, with $4.8 million more to reduce a backlog of whistleblower complaints in the 21 whistleblower protection programs administered by the agency. OSHA would save $1 million by eliminating its Office of International Affairs and $1.3 million by three consolidations of regional offices, according to the budget summary.

MSHA funding would fall slightly, from $372 million in FY2012 to $371.9 million in FY2013. But the agency would get $2.8 million more for additional enforcement personnel and equipment in its coal mine safety and health budget and $1.8 million more for is metal and nonmetal safety and health budget.

The budget document says DOL achieved the goal set by President Obama's executive order to curb non-essential administrative spending by government agencies, by cutting 25 percent, or more than $245 million, from such items as travel, printing, supplies, advisory contracts, executive fleet, and employee IT devices.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and the assistant secretaries participated in a web chat beginning at 1:30 p.m. EST Feb. 13 and lasting for two hours. The website is http://www.dol.gov/budget.

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels and MSHA Assistant Secretary Joe Main answered questions, with Michaels saying OSHA continues to support VPP in this budget. He said the agency "anticipates approving 60 new VPPs in FY 2013 and recertifying 280. The agency also plans 18 new partnerships in FY 2013 in high-hazard industries with a focus on safety and health topics that are common causes of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities" but did not specify which industries.

Michaels also said OSHA's whistleblower funding must rise to "help the agency address persistent backlogs and heavy and increasing caseloads for its whistleblower investigators. These increased resources are critical," he added, "since many whistleblower provisions, including those related to food safety, health care reform, finance reform, airlines, and railroad safety -- all of which have the potential for a large volume of complaints -- have shorter deadlines for response than the 90-day deadline governing section 11 (c) complaints."

Deputy Secretary Seth Harris answered a question about the president's proposal to move the Bureau of Labor Statistics into a consolidated federal statistical agency. "Part of the proposal includes the consolidation of some federal statistical agencies," Harris wrote. "However, nothing will happen to BLS until Congress provides the President with the requisite authority and the involved Cabinet agencies develop a detailed plan. There will be thoughtful and extensive consultation with Congress, outside stakeholders and federal employees before any action is taken."

A complete transcript of the chat will be available on the department's website, www.dol.gov.

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