2015 Regulators’ Budget: Economic Forms of Regulation on the Rise

From: Regulatory Studies Center/George Washington University

By Susan E. Dudley & Melinda Warren

2015 Regulators’ Budget
Economic Forms of Regulation on the Rise
An Analysis of the U.S. Budget for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015
Executive Summary

This report tracks the portion of the Budget of the United States devoted to developing and enforcing federal regulations.  It presents the President’s requested budget outlays in fiscal year (FY) 2015, as well as estimated outlays for FY 2014 as reported in the Budget of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2015 (Budget).  It also provides data on annual outlays from fiscal year 1960 to the present.  This “regulators’ budget” reflects the on-budget costs of regulation, and does not provide information on regulations’ benefits nor the full costs of regulations to society.  Nevertheless, the time-series data presented here offer useful insights into the growth and changing composition of regulation over the last half-century.

The regulators’ budget continues to grow at a modest pace. As estimated here, the President’s proposed budget for regulatory activities in FY 2015 is $60.9 billion, a real (inflation-adjusted) increase of 3.5 percent above estimated FY 2014 outlays.  The FY 2014 regulators’ budget of $57.8 billion is 2.0 percent larger than FY 2013 regulatory agencies’ outlays of $55.9.  The Budget also requests increases in federal regulatory agency personnel of 0.8 percent in FY 2015 and 2.0 percent in FY 2014. 

Agencies that are at least partially funded by fees on the entities they regulate are generally growing at a faster rate than those that depend on appropriations from general funding.  For example, the Food and Drug Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, the Patent and Trademark Office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Securities and Exchange Commission all are estimated to have significant increases in their outlays in the two-year 2014-2015 period.  

Overall, outlays devoted to economic regulatory activities are increasing at a faster rate than those aimed at social regulatory activities, reversing a trend that began in the 1970s away from economic regulation of private-sector activities.  This trend would likely be more dramatic if our data included agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services that pursue economic regulation of health insurance markets pursuant to the Affordable Care Act. While the staffing and outlays devoted to these regulations do fit the criteria for inclusion in this report, the 2015 Budget did not allow us to distinguish between resources devoted to regulations that affect private-sector behavior (covered in this report) from those that affect entitlement spending (not included here).  

Download the full report here. 

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