NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oops! Government Saves Some Money

July 3, 1998

It only amounts to $12 million, but through a foul-up the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may have forfeited an increase in its fiscal 1999 budget.

Here's how it happened:

  • The NHTSA stood by old budget figures it submitted to Congress -- rather than ask for an increase the Clinton administration had included in its budget request.
  • The administration wanted an authorization of $99.8 million, but the NHTSA asked Congress for $87.4 million, the same amount it had requested for fiscal 1998 -- a $12 million difference which had been earmarked for "safety information" programs and air bag research.
  • Lobbyists and agency bureaucrats are reportedly bemoaning the mistake -- not only for what it will mean in terms of 1999 funding, but also the impact it might have on increases in future years.
  • Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater sent Congress a letter blaming the mix-up on a "technical oversight" seemingly on Congress' part -- and asking that the funds be restored so as not to "seriously undermine NHTSA's abilities to implement key safety initiatives."

Rep. Thomas J. Billey Jr. (R-Va.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, shot back that the lower funding level was "consistently endorsed by the administration" in hearings and that "NHTSA got exactly what it asked for." Billey opposed Transportation's "subsequent request for a 14 percent increase."

Source: Cindy Skrzycki, "Traffic Safety Caught in $12 Million Budget Jam," Washington Post, July 3, 1998.


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