While the broader Congress continued to wrestle with extending continued funding for the federal government in FY 2011, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday held a Budget Hearing regarding the National Labor Relations Board’s budget.   Board Chairman Wilma Liebman and Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon were the witnesses who appeared before the Subcommittee. 

As we noted in a post earlier this week, the Board’s budget has recently been drawing increased attention.  H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act  (page 303, lines 17-19) would cut approximately $50 million from the agency’s remaining budget for this year.  The Chairman and AGC have previously argued that this might force a 55-day furlough of Board staff.  This hearing, however, was focused on the Board’s FY 2012 requested budget, which seeks an increase to $287.7 million.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Chairman Liebman’s submitted testimony included her report that over the past decade the NLRB has streamlined operations, cutting Board-side staff by nearly 25% and reducing the number of active Administrative Law Judges from 60 to 40.  On the heels of this decline in resources, Liebman noted:

Meanwhile, case intake has crept up after years of decline. At the ALJ level, case intake was up almost 7% in 2010 from the prior fiscal year and our trial backlog – cases docketed and awaiting trial – was up 5.6%. This Agency clearly still has an important role to play in the nation’s economy and we need adequate resources to carry out our statutory responsibilities.

In his prepared testimony, the Acting GC asserted the importance of the $4.3 million in increased funding the Board seeks for FY 2012, but also explained:

We are also in the process of studying how, using our present and future technological advances, the Agency could work in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. To this end, Chairman Liebman and I have created an Agency-wide work group, including representatives from our Regional Offices, Headquarters, and our employee unions. We have instructed this group to do a comprehensive assessment of the Agency’s structure, processes, and footprint and to make recommendations to us by the end of this fiscal year of options for changes that we should consider to improve our service to the public and use taxpayer money effectively, while at the same time continuing to carry out our statutory mandate. We are also mindful, however, that structural changes take time to implement successfully, including time to have meaningful consultations with our stakeholders.