Federal regulatory budget and staffing continues climb, new study indicates

Spending by federal regulatory agencies continues to grow at a faster pace than other nondiscretionary spending according to “Upward Trend in Regulation Continues: An Analysis of the U.S. Budget for Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006,” this year’s edition of the annual report on regulatory spending and staffing by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis.

Melinda Warren
Melinda Warren

“While businesses are tightening belts government agencies are loosening theirs,” said the Mercatus Center’s Susan Dudley. “This growth in regulation amounts to a hidden tax that is passed along to businesses, workers, and ultimately consumers.”

This year the regulators’ budget, for the 68 regulatory agencies, is estimated to be $41.4 billion in 2006, up from $39.5 billion in 2005.

“This is the 27th year that we have been tracking the spending and staffing for the regulatory agencies as proposed in the president’s budget,” said Weidenbaum Center’s Melinda Warren, a study co-author. “Since 2000, the budget has grown by $16 billion, a 46 percent real dollar increase.”

The allocation of regulatory spending among the different departments and agencies continues to reflect concerns about homeland security. The Department of Homeland Security is budgeted to receive an additional $1.1 billion in regulatory funding over last year. The budget of agencies now housed in the Department of Homeland Security has doubled since 2001. The Budget also includes large increases in outlays at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ($250 million), the Food and Drug Administration ($191 million), and the Patent and Trademark Office ($351 million).

The study also tracks the number of people needed to monitor and enforce regulation at the regulatory agencies. Staffing at the agencies is expected to reach an all-time high of 242,376 in 2006, a 38.4 percent increase since 2000. Again, the Department of Homeland Security leads the federal growth spurt with the largest regulatory staff of 122,324 employees. The EPA has the second largest regulatory staff at 17,440.

The report is available online at the Mercatus Center ( http://www.mercatus.org/ ) and Weidenbaum Center ( http://wc.wustl.edu/ ) web sites.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is a research, education, and outreach organization that works with scholars, policy experts, and government officials to connect academic learning and real world practice. The mission of Mercatus is to promote sound interdisciplinary research and application in the humane sciences that integrates theory and practice to produce solutions that sustainably advance a free, prosperous, and civil society.

The Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis supports scholarly research, public affairs programs, and other activities in the fields of economics, government, and public policy, serving as a bridge between scholars and policy makers.