House "Megabus" Contains Modest Boost to E-Gov Fund
by Gavin Baker, 12/15/2011
Late Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released its proposed "megabus" spending bill, packaging the nine appropriations bills that have not yet been completed for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The House and Senate have been in negotiations to finish the nine bills before a stopgap spending bill expires on Friday.
The release of the House bill, H.R. 3671, brings the latest news of the fate of the Electronic Government Fund. OMB Watch has been working with the Sunlight Foundation and others to make the case for fully funding the E-Gov Fund, which pays for flagship transparency projects such as USAspending.gov and Data.gov.
The details of the House proposal are mixed. First, the unequivocally good news: the House proposal would preserve the E-Gov Fund as an independent budget line, retaining the E-Government Act's authorization and reporting requirements. Previously, both the House and the Senate appropriations committees had proposed to combine the E-Gov Fund with the Federal Citizen Services Fund, which might have resulted in e-gov dollars being used for other purposes.
The appropriations levels in H.R. 3671 are also partially good news. The E-Gov Fund would receive a modest boost, from the $8 million it received in FY 11 to $12.4 million. (The Citizen Services Fund remains essentially level.)
However, the combined appropriation for the funds in H.R. 3671, $46.5 million, is actually a slight decrease from the $50 million that the House appropriations committee approved previously. The E-Gov Fund's share of that $50 million would have amounted to $15.8 million, or $3.4 million more than the newest House proposal. And the number still falls far short of President Obama's recommended $34 million, which OMB Watch and Sunlight endorsed to best continue the fund's track record of successful transparency and efficiency innovations.
Nevertheless, in the current budgetary environment – the bill containing the E-Gov Fund declines by $222 million overall – any increase is remarkable. That Congress is now poised to partially reverse the steep cuts it hastily made in April reflects a growing understanding of the value of transparency.