The U.S. Department of Labor stands to gain far more than most federal agencies in the White House’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal released Feb. 2. President Obama’s budget would increase DOL funding by almost 11% next year, compared to an average of 5.3% for other federal agencies.
Of course, the White House proposal stands no chance of surviving the congressional budgeting process. It’s merely the starting point for a budget negotiation that will likely stretch into the fall.
However, a peek beneath the DOL’s top-line budget number—$13.2 billion, up from $11.8 billion in FY2015— offers insight into Obama’s priorities for the final two years of his presidency. Expect a continuing focus on raising the minimum wage, expanding access to overtime pay, making paid sick leave more available, improvingand promoting retirement savings.
Note: Many of the administration’s budget proposals depend on Congress passing supporting legislation, which is far from a sure thing.
Wage-and-hour: The administration uses the budget proposal to restate its support for raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour. The DOL is moving ahead with plans—probably this month—to expand overtime eligibility to more managers. The budget adds $32 million (and 300 employees) to beef up wage-and-hour enforcement, and calls for legislation assessing a $5,000 penalty per violation against employers that fudge pay records.
Paid sick leave: A whopping $2 billion of the DOL’s $13.2 billion budget would help as many as five states establish and fund mandatory paid sick leave. The federal budget would cover half the cost of those benefits for three years.
Workplace safety: OSHA would get almost $900 million to enhance safety and disaster-response in targeted industries. Additional funds would enhance enforcement of whistle-blower laws.
Retirement security: DOL funding would support efforts to enable part-timers to enroll in employer-sponsored retirement plans. The budget proposes requiring employers with 10 or more workers to enroll them in an IRA such as the newly launched MyRA program. No employer contributions would be required.