Wheeler Makes FCC's Budget Case Before Senate Panel, While Pai Takes Opposing View
May 12, 2015 at 11:42 AM (PT)
FCC Chairman TOM WHEELER appeared before the Senate Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee TODAY (5/12) to argue for the Commission's $388 million fiscal 2016 budget request plus an auction cap of $117 million and $25 million from the Universal Service Fund, telling the panel that the increases in the budget "are largely short-term costs like IT modernization efforts that will deliver long-term savings and improvements in the agency’s efficiency and effectiveness" but noting that one item was mostly beyond the Commission's control, the pending physical move of the agency to a new location.
"With the pending lease expiration, this is no ordinary budget cycle, and adjustments will be necessary," WHEELER noted, saying that the near-term costs of the move will be $51 million for fiscal year 2016 but that the move will save $13 million annually and $119 million over the life of the lease.
WHEELER asserted that "Few, if any, government agencies deliver a better return on investment than the FCC" and added that the agency "pays its own way" and generates "significant revenue" for the government. He also said that the budget, for the first time in a decade, does not seek to add full-time employees and projects a reduction of a net 37 full-time employees.
Commissioner AJIT PAI also appeared at the hearing, complaining that he was not asked to participate in the development of the budget and now, after reviewing it, cannot support it. He noted that the actual baseline budget is $413 million and represents a 17% increase, "dramatically higher" than at "watershed moments" in FCC history, and said that the request was not fiscally responsible. He opposed the transfer of $25 million from the Universal Service Fund to fund agency work, calling it a "stealth tax on the American people," and said that he does not believe the moving costs for the agency should be included in the appropriation, calling doing so "misleading."
And PAI asked Congress to "forbid the Commission from using any appropriated funds to implement or enforce the plan the FCC recently adopted to regulate the Internet," saying that it is "irresponsible for the Commission to spend millions of dollars" doing so "trying to fix something that isn't broken" and suggesting that money be spent to revamp the Lifeline phone program and application of the Universal Service Fund to rural broadband instead.