Information Collection Budget and Regulatory Budget: “Illegitimate” Descendants of the Fiscal Budget

1320.17 Information Collection Budget  (Paperwork Reduction Act)

Each agency’s Senior Official, or agency head in the case of any agency for which the agency head has not delegated responsibility under the Act for any component of the agency to the Senior Official, shall develop and submit to OMB, in such form, at such time, and in accordance with such procedures as OMB may prescribe, an annual comprehensive budget for all collections of information from the public to be conducted in the succeeding twelve months. For good cause, OMB may exempt any agency from this requirement.

Executive Order 12174—Federal Paperwork Reduction

November 30, 1979

1-104. Each agency shall prepare an annual paperwork budget, i.e., an estimate of the total number of hours required to comply with requests for information. The budget should itemize each form used, describe its purpose and identify those affected by it. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall review and may modify each agency’s proposed budget. After the Director has approved an agency’s paperwork budget, it may be increased only by the Director upon request of the head of the agency.


“President Carter launched the budget concept in 1979. By executive order, he required each agency in the Executive Branch to prepare an annual paperwork budget.  Rather than dollars, the budget would use what had become the standard  measuring tool under the Federal Reports Act-burden hours.

Burden hours were simply the number of hours it took to comply with a particular request for information multiplied by the number of persons subject to that request. Each agency would submit its proposed budget to OMB, specifying the information requests the agency planned to use in the following fiscal year.

The Director of OMB was to review and was authorized to modify the proposed budget. An agency could exceed its budget only upon further OMB approval.  A budget approach was particularly useful to OMB for a number of reasons. First, the clearance process for individual information requests had required OMB to focus on the trees, failing to see the forest. An annual review of the entire mass of federal information requests, while presenting its own difficulties, provided a valuable perspective on federal paperwork requirements. Second, because the President was invoking his general constitutional authority to coordinate executive action,  he was able to include in the budget those executive agencies that avoided OMB review under the Federal Reports Act, notably the Treasury Department. Third, as OMB had already learned, a budget was a useful tool in forcing general reductions in agency paperwork requirements.”

The above is extracted, page 22, William F. Funk, The Paperwork Reduction Act: Paperwork Reduction Meets Administrative Law, 24 HARV. J. on Legis. 1 (1987).

Representative Information Collection Budget [264-266]

In 1979 OMB not only announced an Information Collection Budget, as noted above, but it also issued its first regulatory budget. Clearly OMB was working on adopting the principles of a fiscal budget to regulatory matters well before 1979.  It is ironic that this year marks the 101st year of the fiscal budget in that “The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 gave the President overall responsibility for budget planning by requiring him to submit an annual, comprehensive budget proposal to the Congress” and we have yet to adopt the concept of a budget on a continuous basis for anything to do with the ever growing administrative state, notwithstanding arguments to do so.

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