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Commerce: Big spending increase sought for census

Available details of President Barack Obama’s proposed government spending for the 2010 budget year that begins on Oct. 1. A more extensive budget outline is expected in April. In most cases, the figures are for discretionary spending and do not include mandatory entitlement programs like Social Security. The percentage change is based on what Obama wants to spend next year compared with what he anticipates the government will spend in 2009 once Congress completes appropriations for this year.

Agency: Commerce

2010 proposal: $13.8 billion

Change from 2009 estimate: 48 percent increase

Highlights: Nearly all of the huge spending increase Obama wants for the Commerce Department goes to the massive job of conducting the 2010 census.

The department’s discretionary budget would grow from $9.3 billion to $13.8 billion. Roughly $4 billion of the increase would go to the census, which the administration says will require hiring about half a million people. The census also got $1 billion in the recently enacted economic stimulus package.

Funding for the census is a contentious political issue because the count determines government pay-outs to states and cities and the number of congressional seats in each state.

Democrats frequently push for more money to ensure accurate counts for poor and minority communities that have historically been undercounted.

Obama’s proposal is about 20 percent higher than the $11.5 billion that the Bush administration had projected for 2010.

Aside from the census, the other big chunk in Commerce’s budget is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the government’s weather forecasting and conducts climate and ocean research.

Although it provided few details, the budget called for full funding for the agency’s climate change research as well as federal efforts to prevent overfishing.

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