President Obama's fiscal year 2016 budget proposal includes a $1.3 billion funding increase for the Labor Department — including millions to bolster the department's regulatory oversight agencies.
Of the department's proposed $13.2 billion funding level, $1.9 billion would be allocated to worker protection agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Wage and Hour Division and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The proposals, however, are likely to meet resistance from Republicans, many of whom have expressed concerns about regulatory overreach during the Obama administration.
OSHA, which conducts safety inspections at worksites, would receive funding to improve its enforcement of more than 20 whistleblower protection laws, two top agency administrators wrote.
The agency budget, the officials added, would also allow OSHA to address safety hazards with employers, enhance chemical facility safety and improve its responses to major incidents. More than $3 million would go toward funding OSHA-approved state worker protection plans, as well as toward implementing a rule designed to prevent black lung disease among coal miners.
The OSHA proposal would also raise civil monetary penalties "so they would present a real deterrent to employers who fail to comply with the law."
Penalties for improperly recording workers' wages and hours, meanwhile, would also rise under the White House budget, with a $5,000 penalty for each violation.
And the Mine Safety and Health Administration — which oversees safety requirements at mining and mineral processing operations — would receive additional resources to bolster its enforcement ability and to conduct inspections required by federal law. The administration filed a record number of complaints against mining companies in 2014.
"This department's budget expands our investments on behalf of working families; it reinforces our commitment to job training and apprenticeship, fair and equal pay, paid leave, safe workplaces and secure retirements," said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.
The overall $4 trillion budget, however, stands no chance of making it through the GOP-led Congress.
"We need to do better," responded Rep. John Kline, R-Minnesota and chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "We must provide employers certainty and flexibility so they can grow their businesses, create jobs, and give workers the raise they’ve earned."