Everybody's got their noses deep in Obama's first budget proposal, which I previewed yesterday, and I plan to look at the specifics released today, too. First though, I have to clear some stuff off my never-ending Do Now list.
One of the things on that list is a reminder to examine current Congressional funding measures. Yeah, I know, you wish you lived my exciting life.
But, hey, money makes the world, including all our federal agencies and programs, go round.
And included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105) that was passed yesterday by the House is a provision to end IRS use of private debt collectors.
Don't get you hopes up just yet, debt collector opponents. This has happened before in past appropriation processes. The House said no, the Senate said yes and in the end, the collectors continued their IRS contracting jobs.
Other outsourcing axed, too: Private tax debt collectors weren't the only personnel issue in the funding bill. The appropriations act also calls for a one-year government-wide ban on new public-private job competitions for federal work under Office of Management and Budget contracting rules.
Both efforts to keep government jobs in-house were welcomed by the National Treasury Employees Union, which has been a vocal opponent of the private tax collection effort.
"These provisions are the clearest sign yet that Congress recognizes the previous administration's competitive sourcing initiative has been a disaster," NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement issued after the House vote.
More money for service and exams: In addition to the worker rules, the appropriations bill would increase the IRS budget significantly over the last fiscal year's levels, including $2.3 billion slated for taxpayer service.
Part of that allocation ($193 million) would go to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, which helps taxpayers when they can't get their problems resolved through regular IRS channels.
The main job of the IRS, however, wasn't forgotten. The bill would provide $5.1 billion for tax enforcement.
Next step: The funding measure, passed by a 245-to-178 vote, allocates money for the rest of the 2009 fiscal year for all those areas that were left hanging in the last Congress. In addition to funds for the Treasury Department, the rest of the money OK'ed by the House would go to:
- $151.8 billion for labor, health and education
- $20.5 billion for agriculture, rural development and the Food and Drug Administration
- $57.7 billion for commerce, justice and science
- $33.3 billion for energy and water
- $22.7 billion for financial services and general government
- $27.6 billion for interior and the environment
- $4.40 billion for the legislative branch
- $36.6 billion for state and foreign relations
- $55 billion for transportation and housing and urban development.
These departments had been operating under what's known as a continuing resolution that expires next week, March 6 to be precise. Now the Senate has to sign off on the measure.