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Labor Board Finds Budget Surplus for Second Straight Year

Nov. 1, 2019, 1:15 PM

The National Labor Relations Board finished the fiscal year with $5.7 million left in its coffers, marking the second consecutive year the agency’s ended with a surplus, even as board officials continue to cite budget constraints for personnel cuts and operational changes.

“Despite a spending plan that anticipated the expenditure of all allocated funds, the Agency ended FY2019 with an unobligated balance of $5.7 million,” Board Chairman John Ring and General Counsel Peter Robb said in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg Law. A board spokesman confirmed the surplus.

Federal laws like the Impoundment Control Act generally require agencies to spend their allocated budget as directed by Congress. The union that represents staffers at the agency’s headquarters, the NLRB Professional Association, told Bloomberg Law in a Oct. 31 e-mail that it plans to report the latest surplus to Congress.

“We were on pace to spend over 99% of our allocation, but some contracts came in under their budgeted amount and others either were not awarded or are under protest,” NLRB spokesman Edwin Egee told Bloomberg Law in a Oct. 31 e-mail.

The White House has looked to trim funding at the board during the Trump administration, but Congress has rejected those proposed cuts. The NLRB’s discretionary spending allotment has remained flat at $274 million for the previous six years.

Ring and Robb recently implemented a number of changes to the way that the agency investigates unfair labor practice cases and how the five-member board issues decisions in those cases, efforts the agency leaders said are aimed at increasing efficiency. The Board has also offered staff buyouts and left certain open positions unfilled, citing anticipated budget cuts. Career staffers have protested against a number of the moves undertaken at the NLRB since Republicans took control of the board in 2017.

The NLRB was investigated by the Government Accountability Office last year. The probe came after a Bloomberg Law report that agency heads were directed by the Office of Management and Budget not to spend their entire allocation, possibly because President Donald Trump‘s administration was working on clawing back some of the money Congress had appropriated to agencies.

The GAO ultimately closed the investigation without issuing a formal, public report—per its protocol—when an agency suspected of violating the Impoundment Control Act corrects course.

“For two years, the steady drumbeat from our leadership has been that employees need to make sacrifices to satisfy the President’s looming austerity budgets, which, predictably, has greatly undermined employee morale,” the NLRB union said in a statement. “So when we learn that, for the second year in a row, the Agency has failed to spend the money that it was appropriated by Congress, the vague explanations in the email do not soften the blow.”

Egee said the NLRB has discussed the surplus with staff on Congress’ appropriations committees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hassan A. Kanu in Washington at hkanu@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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