Bush puts a price tag on his budget
Lawmakers to be charged $200 for previously free paper copies
In a move it says is aimed at saving money and trees, the Bush administration plans to charge lawmakers $200 for copies of this year's federal budget.
Democrats and Republicans alike groaned about the decision, telling The Hill that the extra expenses will not be easy to find in already strained budgets.
“It’s pennywise and pound-foolish,” Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC), a member of the House Budget Committee, told the newspaper. “I don’t think as a member of Congress that I should have to take money out of my account [for the president’s budget request].”
The Office of Management Budget will post the president's budget online at www.budget.gov and forego distributing 3,000 hard copies to lawmakers and federal agencies. The administration says its decision was meant to cut unnecessary spending and reduce wasted paper.
"This is a good business decision. ... It puts the focus on going green. It makes logical sense," Karen Evans, who is in charge of government technology issues at the OMB, told the Washington Post.
The environmental impact of charging for printed budgets remains to be seen, but Evans estimated it will save OMB $1 million over the next five years. The budget is generally about 2,200 pages long, so if every copy that normally was handed out for free was not printed, about 6.6 million sheets of paper would be saved. According to rough statistics compiled by ConservaTree that would save about 800 trees. Nearly 4 billion trees are harvested for paper around the globe every year.
While lawmakers will be able to pay the $200 fee from their office budgets, many complain they are barely able to pay their staffs a living wage as it is. And plenty of entry level Hill staffers would say they already don't get paid what they're worth.
Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), chairman of the House Budget Committee, praised some aspects of the online budgets, such as the ability to search for keywords, but he said he would still prefer paper copies.
Spratt plans to spend $2,000 for 10 copies of the budget. That's about as much as he paid an office intern for three months of work, according to the Hill staff salary database Legistorm.
Even some Republicans scoffed at the idea of squinting at a computer screen to read through 2,000-plus pages of fine print on federal spending proposals.
“I think people who request a copy of the budget should be given it gratis,” Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), another Budget panel member, told The Hill. “You want something in your hand so you can thumb through it and mark it up and reference it.”