At the same time, the budget continues to increase spending for enforcement of workplace health, safety and wage laws. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would see a 4 percent increase and the department's Wage and Hour Division would see a 6 percent increase. The department is requesting another $33 million to help reduce the large case backlog of mine safety cases, a major focus after the explosion last year at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 workers.
The administration also plans to nearly double spending from $25 million to $47 million on the effort to crack down on employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors. The agency says worker misclassification not only cheats employees out of wages they deserve, it lets businesses avoid paying taxes on unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare.
Spending: $18.7 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 0.9 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $18.7 billion
Highlights: Obama's space budget is about the same as the previous year, avoiding the major proposed cuts other agencies are facing, partly because of the long planned retirement of the space shuttle fleet. With Obama continuing a Bush administration decision to stop flying the 30-year-old shuttles, NASA can then shift the couple billion dollars it has been spending yearly to launch shuttles to other projects. However, NASA will have to spend more than half a billion dollars on a pension plan payment for private company workers who helped launch the shuttle.
It's how that other money will be spent that has already put Obama's NASA on a collision course with Congress. Obama wants to spend $850 million to help private companies develop their own space taxis that will eventually replace the shuttle and the Russian Soyuz as the way to get astronauts to the International Space Station. Congress has repeatedly tried to cut commercial crew spaceship aid. On the other side, Congress has ordered NASA to speed up development of a heavy-lift rocket to get astronauts out of Earth's orbit and on the way to an asteroid, the moon and Mars. NASA has put $1.8 billion in its budget proposal for that, but said they cannot build the rocket in time for a 2016 launch as Congress wants.
NASA continues to wrestle with the overbudget James Webb Space Telescope, which eventually will replace the Hubble telescope, cutting $64 million from the budget as it tries to get costs under control. The agency is still trying to figure when it will be launched and what its total cost will be.
Spending: $73.6 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 0.7 percent decrease
Discretionary Spending: $58.9 billion
Highlights: Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department is spared major cuts hitting other government agencies, with a decrease of less than 1 percent from the previous year. The budget proposal maintains significant funds for programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Iraq, where U.S. diplomats will face serious challenges as American troops continue to withdraw.
The budget retains major assistance programs for U.S. allies in the Middle East, including $1.5 billion for Egypt despite the recent ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Officials stressed, however, that money for Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military aid, could be altered depending on developments.
Israel is slated for $5.6 billion, including $3.1 billion in military aid. Jordan, which along with Egypt, are the only two Arab states to have peace deals with Israel, is to get $300 million in military aid.
Yemen, a key partner in fighting al-Qaida, is set to get $120 million in assistance, the same as requested last year which was an increase of $53 million over the 2010 budget.
Assistance to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq is divided between two accounts — one totaling $5.3 billion that deals with core assistance and diplomatic support and another totaling $8.7 billion that deals with aid related to ongoing war efforts.