"FICTITIOUS" FDA USER FEE PROPOSALS CRITICIZED BY HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS PANEL; BILL PASSED BY COMMITTEE WOULD PROVIDE FDA WITH $ 762 MIL. IN FISCAL YEAR 1992
HHS should not rely on "fictitious" FDA user fees to help "offset" funding needs elsewhere in the department, the House Appropriations Committee declares in the report accompanying its FDA appropriations bill for fiscal 1992. The bill was approved June 20. For FY 1992, the Bush Administration requested total funding of $ 770.2 mil., $ 573.2 mil. from appropriations and $ 197 mil. from proposed user fees. FDA Commissioner Kessler "provided testimony before the committee indicating that if FDA received only its appropriation request, 'the net effect of such catastrophic events would be the decimation of FDA's most important resource -- personnel,'" the House report states. "The committee expects [HHS] to present credible appropriations requests in the future and to not rely on fictitious user fees for FDA as means to offset other departmental needs." The committee approved fiscal 1992 appropriations for FDA of $ 761.9 mil., approximately $ 71 mil. more than the agency's appropriations for FY 1991. The 1992 figure is $ 8.3 mil. less than the Administration's total budget plan for the agency, but $ 189 mil. more than HHS requested for appropriations ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 11, p. 4). The bill (HR 2698) twice addresses the user fee issue. In one case, the bill explicitly prohibits user fees, stating that "none of these funds shall be used to develop, establish or operate any program of user fees authorized by 31 U.S.C." -- a general, government-wide authority for user fees that has been cited by FDA. The committee maintains that user fees can only be implemented by providing FDA with specific statutory authority. Secondly, the bill states that of the $ 725.9 mil. proposed allotment for FDA's general salaries and expenses, "$ 188.85 mil. shall be available only to the extent an official budget request, for a specific dollar amount, is transmitted to Congress." The $ 188.85 mil. is funding that would have come from user fees under the Administration's plan. The committee is requiring FDA to ask for those funds if it believes them necessary. The committee has consistently objected to the Administration's approach of including user fees in its budget for FDA before authorizing legislation has been enacted. That approach also angered the committee for "budget scoring" reasons. The committee each year comes close to the Administration's total budget request, but because the committee assumes no user fees, it spends more federal funds than the Administration sought, a drawback in the deficit reduction environment ("The Pink Sheet" April 22, p. 3). Committee Chairman Whitten (D-Miss.) said he expects the bill to be taken up by the House June 27. The Senate Appropriations/Agriculture Subcommittee has yet to schedule a markup on its FY 1992 budget bill. Within the $ 725.9 mil. provided for general salaries and expenses, the bill provides $ 2 mil. "to meet unanticipated costs of emergency activities not provided for in the budget and after maximum absorption of such costs within the remainder of the account has been achieved." The committee's report adds that it has allotted "not less than $ 12 mil." for the orphan drug program, up from the $ 10.2 mil. requested by the Administration and the $ 9.5 mil. allocated for 1991 ("The Pink Sheet" April 29, T&G-14). The House committee also would allocate $ 10.3 mil. for construction and improvement of facilities and equipment and $ 25.6 mil. for rental payments. Regarding the goal of a consolidated FDA campus, the "committee has provided $ 2 mil. to begin specific site selection and planning for the consolidation of FDA activities and bill language has been included that would allow for donations of land in Montgomery County and/or Prince George's County, Md.," the report advises (see related story, T&G- 14).
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