This morning, President Obama unveiled a $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal year 2011, (pdf) $14 billion of which is allocated to the Department of Labor (DOL). As expected, much of these funds are directed to the DOL’s labor and employment law enforcement efforts. According to a fact sheet, the budget provides $25 million and 100 additional enforcement personnel for the DOL, in conjunction with the Treasury Department, to identify and penalize employers who improperly classify employees as independent contractors. In addition, $1.7 billion – a $67 million increase – will be given to the DOL’s worker protection agencies for enforcement purposes, reflecting a shift in resources towards greater enforcement. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be provided $573 million, an increase of $14 million, to be used, among other things, to hire or transfer an additional 60 enforcement members to its staff, and conduct 9 percent more inspections. An additional $7 million will be provided to the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) to hire more benefits advisors and research staff.
Other stated goals for the DOL’s budget allocation include:
- The creation of a system of automatic workplace pensions. Under the proposal, employers who do not currently offer a retirement plan will be required to enroll their employees in a direct-deposit IRA account. Employees may opt-out. Small firms of 10 employees or less would be exempt.
- A doubling of the tax credit for small employers to offer a qualified retirement plan to their workers, from $500 to $1,000 per year, for a maximum of three years.
- An improvement in the transparency and adequacy of 401(k) retirement savings plans. Specifically, the DOL will undertake regulatory efforts to reduce barriers to annuitization of 401(k) plan assets; increase the transparency of pension fees; improve transparency of target date and other default retirement investments; and reduce conflicts of interest between pension advisers and fiduciaries.
- The expansion of families’ access to paid leave through a new $50 million fund to help states launch paid-leave programs cover their start-up costs.
- An expansion of the Saver’s Tax Credit to provide a 50 percent match on the retirement savings of families that earn less than $85,000 (up to $1,000 of savings would be matched).
- A boost in funding and proposed legislative changes to reduce improper unemployment insurance payments by more than $4 billion and employer tax evasion by $300 million over 10 years.
In addition, the budget funds an extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits, COBRA tax credits, and relief to states and localities to prevent layoffs, and would eliminate the capital gains tax on investments in small businesses. The DOL will hold a Q&A session on the budget on its website.
With respect to immigration initiatives, the budget allocates $137 million to the Department of Homeland Security for enhancements and expansion of immigration related verification programs at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Moreover, the budget provides $18 million – a five percent increase – to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), and an additional $162 million, an 11 percent increase in funding, for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to strengthen civil rights enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
More information on the 2011 budget can be found at the Office of Management and Budget’s website.
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