Analyzing Agency Budgets for Regulatory Spending

Budget Data Reveal Congressional Influence Over Trump's Policy Priorities

August 12, 2020

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Abstract

This Regulatory Insight analyzes four Trump administration budget proposals to identify notable recurring trends in regulatory spending. Budget data indicate that spending on homeland security regulation has risen, while outlays for environment and energy regulation have fallen. Comparing the president’s budget proposals with actual outlays suggests where the administration has been largely successful in accomplishing its political goals and where Congress has hindered those goals. The results highlight how federal budgets are a product of compromise between the executive and legislative branches.

Introduction

Presidents enter their first term with a long list of policy priorities, only some of which are accomplished. Although sorting through political rhetoric is challenging, one major indicator of a president’s priorities is the annual budget proposal to Congress. The recently published fiscal year (FY) 2021 Regulators’ Budget report analyzes budget data on spending and personnel dedicated to developing, administering, and enforcing regulation. As an annual report, the Regulators’ Budget also sheds light on how regulatory spending has changed over time. Now, after four Trump administration budget proposals, what are notable recurring trends in regulatory spending? What do these trends indicate about the president’s priorities?

Overall spending on regulatory agencies rose approximately 10.5 percent from 2017 to 2020, in real terms, and the FY 2021 request would slightly increase regulatory spending by 0.3 percent over estimated 2020 levels. Nevertheless, a closer examination reveals major changes in the categories of regulation promoted by the president, with the common trend being more for homeland security and less for environmental regulation. By showing differences between proposed and actual levels of spending, the data also illustrate the divergent priorities of the president and Congress, especially on environmental regulation.

Charts

Line chart depicting regulatory spending by category for homeland security and environment and energy from 1960 to 2020.

Figure One

Spending related to homeland security and environment and energy from 1960 to 2020.

Line chart showing regulatory spending for select agencies (ICE, CBP, TSA, and EPA) from 2000 to 2020.

Figure Two

Budgets for ICE, CBP, TSA, and EPA from 2000 to 2020.

Bar chart showing the difference between proposed and actual spending on homeland security.

Figure Three

Differences in proposed and actual spending on homeland security agencies.

Bar chart showing the difference in proposed and actual spending for environment and energy agencies.

Figure Four

Differences in proposed and actual spending on environment and energy agencies.

Regulators' Budget

Cover of the FY2021 Regulators' Budget report.

 

View Reports

The Regulators' Budget report is a joint effort of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis and the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center in Washington, DC. These annual reports examine the Budget of the United States Government to identify federal agency spending and personnel devoted to developing, administering, and enforcing regulation.