If the sequestration budget cuts take effect March 1, the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration could be forced to take its inspectors off the job
“for some period of time,” the White House said Feb. 8.
“This would mean roughly 1,200 fewer inspections of the nation's most
dangerous workplaces, which would leave workers unprotected and could lead to an
increase in worker fatality and injury rates,” the White House said in a fact
sheet listing the most damaging effects of sequestration.
“Our economy is poised to take off, but we cannot afford a self-inflicted
wound from Washington,” the White House said. “We cannot simply cut our way to
prosperity, and if Republicans continue to insist on an unreasonable cuts-only
approach, the middle class risks paying the price.”
In order to stave off sequestration, Congress must agree on a plan to pare
$1.2 trillion, over a nine-year period, from the federal deficit before the
If sequestration is triggered, OSHA's budget would automatically be pared by
$46 million, the White House said in a Sept. 14 report
(42 OSHR 843, 9/20/12).
On Feb. 5, President Obama called on Congress to delay sequestration with a
combination of spending cuts and tax changes.
Republicans countered that the House has twice passed bills to replace the
sequester, which have been ignored by the Senate.
“If Democrats have ideas for smarter cuts, they should bring them up for
debate,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a Feb. 5
statement. “But the American people will not support more tax hikes in place of
the meaningful spending reductions both parties already agreed to and the
president signed into law.”
Some labor advocates have suggested that OSHA cope with the budget cuts by
trimming its voluntary protection program.
Federal and state compliance assistance programs account for $134.2 million
of OSHA's $564.8 million budget, almost three times the amount of the cuts that
the White House says would be brought on by sequestration.
“You could make a strong argument that, in a time of severe budget
restriction, they should cut back on cooperative programs, and particularly VPP
reward programs, and they should focus on basic enforcement,” Randy Rabinowitz,
director of regulatory policy at the Center for Effective Government, told
“Instead of patting good actors on the back--which is fine, I'm not saying
it's a bad thing--but it seems like it's not their core mission to reward good
actors,” Rabinowitz said. “Their core mission is to fine people who are not
complying with the law and try and create a reason that they would want to.”
Rabinowitz predicted, however, that the cuts are more likely to affect
various OSHA programs.
OSHA chief David Michaels has said that VPP's funding is secure.
“VPP will continue,” he told BNA Jan. 4. “I want the VPP program to thrive,
and we have every intention to continue to ensure that the VPP program includes
the best of the best. It's a very special program. It's the employers we like to
point to and say, 'They're doing it right. Follow their lead.' And that will
Meanwhile, Obama failed to submit his fiscal 2014 budget on time when the
Feb. 4 deadline passed.
By law, the president must submit his budget plan by the first Monday of
February. The White House has declined to say when the budget will be
Aaron Trippler, government affairs director at the American Industrial
Hygiene Association, said he does not think the missed budget deadline will have
any material effect on agencies' funding limits.
“Frankly, missing the budget deadline may turn out to be a blessing in
disguise,” Trippler said. “When one looks back over the past years, projected
cuts in some programs have been saved because no budget has been adopted, rather
a continuing resolution. That doesn't make it right, but it's real.”
By Stephen Lee
The White House's Feb. 8 fact sheet is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/02/08/fact-sheet-examples-how-sequester-would-impact-middle-class-families-job.