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CONGRESS LACKS TIME TO ENACT USER FEE LEGISLATION THIS YEAR

Executive Summary

CONGRESS LACKS TIME TO ENACT USER FEE LEGISLATION THIS YEAR, Rep. Dingell (D-Mich.) told House Budget Committee Chairman Panetta (D-Calif.) in an April 3 letter. A bill to authorize user fees would be difficult to enact not only because of constraints related to the relatively limited time remaining on the legislative calendar, but also due to the "obstacles" presented by user fee opponents on the Appropriations Committee and in the FDA-regulated industries, the House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman maintained. "Given the major political obstacles, both internally with the Appropriations Committee, and externally with regulated industries, I believe we lack the time to craft a responsible proposal this year," Dingell's letter states. Dingell asserted that he retains a "commitment to exploring the possibility of developing a proposal" to authorize user fees. Dingell told a House Appropriations/Agriculture Subcommittee hearing March 28 that Congress must "think seriously" about user fees ("The Pink Sheet" April 2, p. 14). The Michigan Democrat also stipulated the conditions under which he will consider such legislation. "Such fees should be used not for deficit reduction but to help traditionally underfunded agencies perform their regulatory missions," he said. The pharmaceutical industry has opposed user fees out of concern that, even if added revenues are applied to drug evaluation programs, they will replace rather than increase appropriations and result in the industry's subsidizing the federal deficit. In addition, Dingell continued, "I have no intention of circumventing the functions of the Appropriations Committee. That committee must be a willing party to any negotiations affecting matters within its purview." Dingell also commented that government programs overseen by his committee cannot be cut back further to reduce the budget deficit. Noting that his subcommittee "has contributed annually to the effort to reduce the deficit" throughout the 1980s, the Michigan Democrat wrote: "There is very little more that we can do to generate revenues or savings from our programs without damaging programs beyond repair." The letter was intended, Dingell told Panetta, to explain "formally what I believe this committee can accomplish with regard to savings and fees" related to programs "within our jurisdiction."
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