Budget

White House, Senate at odds over Census funding

Shutterstock image. Copyright: Michele Paccione. 

The White House hit back against Senate appropriators in a June 14 statement, arguing that Senate-proposed funding levels would "undermine" the Census Bureau's work toward a tech-powered, cheaper 2020 Census.

The Senate's Commerce Department funding bill would earmark almost $1.25 billion for Census' periodic programs, which include the 2020 enumeration, in fiscal year 2017.

That's $100 million less than the Obama administration's funding request.

Census has been planning to use mobile devices, internet response options and outside data sources to cut the decennial census cost by $5 billion.

"The bill's funding level puts these design changes at risk, potentially increasing the cost to the taxpayer for administering the 2020 Decennial Census or requiring unsustainable reductions in other critical surveys," the White House warned in the message, which threatened a veto of the bill if passed in its present form

Senate appropriators are concerned about controlling ballooning budgets.

Senate Appropriations Committee report on the funding bill noted that the $1.25 billion in periodic survey funding, while less than the presidential request, is a $150 million bump over fiscal year 2016. The report characterized the decennial census as an "expensive, high-risk" program with "persistent accountability issues."

The funding bill, accordingly, would dedicate almost $2.6 million to the Census Bureau's Office of the Inspector General.

Despite keeping the purse strings tights, appropriators have high expectations of the Census Bureau.

"The Bureau shall continue to work to bring down the cost of the 2020 Decennial Census to a level less than the 2010 Census, not adjusting for inflation," the report commands. "The Committee is mindful of the Bureau's efforts and expects that the increased testing early in this decennial cycle will result in significant cost savings over the course of the entire 2020 Census."

A Census Bureau spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

Under regular congressional scrutiny, Census officials have testified that their plans for 2020 are, so far, on schedule.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.

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