Sunday, October 30, 2011


From Terri Ann Lowenthal of the Census Project:

Next week, both the House and Senate will be back in session.

The Senate is expected to finish action on its first 'minibus' appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12), covering three appropriations accounts: Commerce, Justice & Science (which includes the Census Bureau); Transportation/HUD; and Agriculture. While we have not yet seen amendments that would affect the Census Bureau's funding, anything is possible -- there was a rumor last week about an amendment to reduce the Bureau's Working Capital Fund, a lesser known but robust revolving line item that funds critical core activities of the agency -- and we will keep a close eye on continued Senate debate.

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) announced that conferees would begin work next week on the minibus bill, even though the House itself has not considered any of the bills incorporated in the larger one. Therefore, conferees will be working with parameters set by the House Appropriations Committee and, presumably, the full Senate.

As a reminder, key activities in the Periodic Censuses and Programs (Periodics) account are the 2010 Census (final evaluations; data products; challenge program; Census Coverage Measurement, or undercount/overcount estimates); research and planning for 2020 Census; and the 2012 Economic Census and 2012 Census of Governments. The Salaries and Expenses (S&E) account covers ongoing economic and demographic surveys and research supporting ongoing programs.

Here's the current lay of the land:

1. The Census Bureau requested $752.7M for Periodics, a reduction of $138.5M from the FY11 funding level. House appropriators allocated only $596.2M for Periodics (H.R. 2596), a reduction of 21% below the request (and 25% below the FY11 funding level). With this funding level, the Census Bureau says it would cancel the 2012 Economic Census, scheduled to start this fiscal year, with data collection occurring at the start of 2013. The Bureau also would delay or cancel some 2010 Census evaluations (possibly including the Count Question Resolution Program, through which local governments can challenge their census counts) and unique 2010 Census data products. The House budget cuts also would delay estimates of undercount/overcount from the Census Coverage Measurement program.

2. Senate appropriators allocated $690M for Periodics (S. 1572). Report language directed the Census Bureau to conduct the Economic Census and to reduce spending on periodic programs (indicating less than a thorough understanding of this account, since the Econ Census IS a periodic program!). According to the Commerce Department's impact statement, the Census Bureau needs "no less than" $690 million for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account to start the 2012 Economic Census. However, the agency would eliminate some key elements of the Economic Census, including the Survey of Business Owners. It also would cut Group Quarters (prisons; college dorms; military barracks; nursing homes; juvenile detention centers; etc.) from the American Community Survey. The proposed Senate funding level also would affect final 2010 Census activities, as noted above in the consequences of the House-committee approved level. The Census Bureau indicated that the Senate funding level would "adversely impact" nearly 300 jobs.

3. The Census Bureau requested $272.1M for the S&E account, incorporating $14M in program decreases to help rein in spending, including popular activities such as the Statistical Abstract. The House committee allocated $258.5M, equal to the FY11 funding level. The Senate committee allocated $253.3M. Under either funding level, the Census Bureau would carry out its own proposed cutbacks and would not proceed with three other initiatives: statistics on state and local government pensions, which inform GDP calculations; updates to the nation's poverty measure (through the CPS Supplemental Survey); and research on the use of administrative records to replace or supplement field data collection.

4. Continuing Resolution for FY12: The current CR runs through November 18. Congress could extend the temporary funding measure until Thanksgiving, or until the week before Christmas. Too early to know!

For more detail on the consequences of reducing or eliminating these core Census Bureau programs, including the quinquennial Economic Census, please see the letters to the House and Senate signed by dozens of organizations participating in The Census Project

SUGGESTED ACTION: Census Bureau stakeholders should contact members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, and Science, as well as the Appropriations Committee chairs and ranking members -- all presumed conferees -- to highlight the serious consequences of the proposed funding levels for the Bureau.
House subcommittee members
Senate subcommittee members

Please keep in mind that important research for the 2020 Census also is at stake. Congress is directing the Census Bureau to reduce spending on the decennial census significantly over the decade. The Census Bureau already has taken that directive to heart, but it cannot hope to implement new cost-saving methods and operations without a modest investment up front (e.g. early in the decade) on thorough research and testing.

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