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The Federal Trade Commission’s fiscal 2018 budget would be cut by about $6 million under President Donald Trump’s government spending plan released May 23.
The commission would receive $306.3 million under the White House budget proposal. The most recent government spending bill, which was signed into law May 5, funds the agency at $313 million through September.
Even a modest cut in the agency’s budget is cause for concern among advocates who want aggressive antitrust enforcement. “Cuts in funding will make it more difficult for the agencies to enforce the antitrust laws, particularly at this critical time where there are growing concerns over declining competition, market entry, and inequality,” said American Antitrust Institute President Diana Moss.
The FTC also could be is shouldering new burdens as a result of GOP efforts to roll back open internet rules that have been the purview of the Federal Communications Commission. Bloomberg BNA reported in April that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to relinquish to the FTC enforcement of internet service providers’ privacy and net neutrality practices.
This could place the FTC under strain. “Republicans in Congress and the administration are pushing to shift a lot of responsibilities to the FTC, such as broadband privacy and net neutrality, so this is a strange time to be cutting the FTC’s budget,” said Joshua Stager, policy counsel for the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.
Of the total amount proposed for the FTC, $112.7 million would come from fees companies pay under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act’s premerger notification requirement. Another $15 million would come from fees to implement and enforce rules under the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act. The remaining part of the budget would come from taxpayers.
The plan would allot $135.2 million to the FTC’s competition division, which enforces antitrust laws along with the Justice Departments antitrust division. The consumer protection division, which conducts a range of enforcement activities relating to consumers, including privacy, would get $171 million.
The FTC voted 2-0 to approve the budget request and send it to Congress. The commission consists of only two members—Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and Democratic commissioner Terrell McSweeny. There are three vacant commissioner slots.
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The FTC's budget proposal is posted at http://src.bna.com/o9c
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