Aaron K. TripplerWith $4.6 trillion in cuts proposed over the next decade, it’s difficult to predict what effect Rep. Paul Ryan’s ambitious GOP budget plan would have on specific programs and agencies, such as OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Although the Wisconsin legislator’s proposal is just that – a proposal, it is prompting lots of discussion about what (if anything) should be cut and by how much.

Investor's Business Daily says Ryan’s budget would reduce government spending outside of Social Security and interest on debt to its lowest levels in more than 60 years. On the chopping block: Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance and retirement and health benefits for veterans and federal employees. Not on the chopping block: Medicare, defense spending and Social Security.

So where does that leave programs related to occupational safety and health?

“The Ryan budget proposal for FY14 and beyond is just a starting point,” said Aaron Trippler, government affairs director for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

Although in 2011, House Republicans did propose cutting OSHA’s funding by $99 million (41 OSHR 136, 2/17/11), Trippler said it is highly unlikely that OSHA will take a hit that size.

“But let’s just suppose it would be enacted. Such a cut in OSHA’s budget would require the agency to trim many programs, if not cut them outright.”

Which programs would be affected would depend upon the party that’s in control. Trippler said Democrats would likely enact big cuts in compliance assistance, OSHA’s VPP, alliances, etc, while Republicans would reduce enforcement.

Trippler, a longtime D.C. observer who has seen many administrations and budgets come and go, said an outcome for the budget battle is difficult, given the many different scenarios that are in play.

“We have 1)  A continuing resolution to deal with; 2) proposals for FY14 from the GOP; 3)  the Democrats proposing their version of the CR; 4) the President getting ready to propose his FY14 budget and 5) the sequester,” he said. “After all of this I expect OSHA to find a way to accept the cuts in sequester through this fiscal year. I don’t expect the sequester cuts to impact the FY14 budget, but I would be very surprised if OSHA received any increase in FY14. 

“The most positive outlook is a flat-line budget for FY14.”