Paperwork reduction plan progresses

By Zach Patton

May 13, 2004

Aiming to reduce federal regulatory paperwork, the House Government Reform Committee voted Wednesday to require the Office of Management and Budget to devote more effort to identify ways to simplify federal forms.

The committee approved the measure (H.R. 2432) by voice vote over the objections of minority committee members who characterized it as little more than window dressing.

Specifically, the bill would direct OMB to look for ways to reduce paperwork associated with the Internal Revenue Service, which accounts for 83 percent of federal regulatory paperwork for the public.

Acknowledging the complexity of the bill, Chairman Tom Davis of Virginia said, "This is not always the sexiest stuff." But, he added, "It's critically important as a 'good governance' issue." Davis said complicated regulatory and tax paperwork can stymie the economy, forcing business owners to devote time to filling out federal forms instead of running their businesses.

But the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman of California called the bill "all PR and no substance. It's a public relations strategy to make the public think the Republicans have a plan to strengthen the economy. This bill is a great prop ... but that's all it is," Waxman said. He added that he believes the Bush administration is not serious about reducing paperwork, noting that the public spent 700 million more hours filling out federal paperwork in 2003 than in the last year of the Clinton administration.

The bill would make permanent the authorization for the General Accounting Office to analyze major rules proposed by federal agencies. In the 2000 Truth in Regulating Act, Congress authorized a three-year pilot program for that authorization, but GAO never staffed the project.

The legislation would also require OMB to integrate its regulatory accounting reports with its annual budget report, so lawmakers could compare the on-budget and off-budget costs associated with each agency requiring paperwork by the public.

Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee chairman and the bill's sponsor, offered a managers amendment that more clearly specifies how OMB would review the IRS paperwork burden. It would also would require OMB to designate three or more agencies to participate in a study on regulatory budgeting for fiscal years 2006 and 2007. The amendment passed on voice vote after the committee defeated all the Democrat amendments to Ose's manager's amendent.

The Democrat amendments included ones offered by:

By Zach Patton

May 13, 2004