This week, the White House released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2018, titled “A New Foundation For American Greatness.” The proposal calls for tax cuts, a 10% increase in military spending, and $1.6 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico, while cutting deep into Medicaid and other programs for the poor.
Although the document calls for a nearly 20% cut to the Labor Department’s budget, it largely spares OSHA programs from the chopping block, though it could still inhibit OSHA’s operations. The Susan Harwood Training Grants program is the only OSHA program up for elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, a move that would save $10.5 million, Bloomberg BNA  reported.
The balanced budget is built upon what New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis described as “an improbable promise ” of 3% economic growth.
If the proposed budget were to pass as written—a move that would be highly unlikely, since Congress has historically made significant alterations to the president’s plan before finalizing it—then OSHA’s budget would be cut about 2% from $552.8 million in Fiscal Year 2017 to $543.3 million in Fiscal Year 2018.
Even a modest cut, however, could significantly impair OSHA’s ability to enforce workplace safety regulations, especially given the White House’s deregulatory push, according to Jordan Barab, MA, who served as an OSHA deputy assistant secretary under former President Barack Obama.
“The administration may regret that when they realize that it takes as many or more resources to roll back standard[s] as it takes to issue them in the first place,” Barab wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “And remember that because of inflation and other increasing expenses, a flat budget is actually a budget cut . OSHA will have less staff and do fewer inspections next year.”
Another factor to consider is how the forthcoming arrival of new appointees could influence spending and policy priorities.
“This looks largely like a placeholder budget request which is to be expected since the new administration has not had a change to get deeply engaged in the agency’s activities,” Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg this week.
The perspective brought to work by individuals running OSHA will be more important than the final dollar amount, Freedman added. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, whom Trump nominated after Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration, has been on the job less than a month.