Congress is preparing to cut the budgets of the SEC and the CFTC at a time when their roles as financial regulators are expanding.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday unveiled a budget of $1.25 billion for the SEC and $195 million for the CFTC that extends the sequester reductions through the September 30 end of the current fiscal year.
Full Senate approval of the cuts is expected in a few days. The House approved the same spending authorizations last week.
On the surface, the cuts seem small and temporary. But the cuts are deeper than they seem and could have long-term ramifications.
What is being billed as a 5 percent cut compared to the last fiscal year is actually double that since it applies the full annual cut to spending for half a year.
The lower budgets could also become the starting point for negotiations over next year’s budgets for the regulators. The president is expected to release his 2014 budget proposals April 8, two months later than normal.
Obama's original budget request of $1.567 billion for the SEC represented a 19 percent increase over the 2012 level, but a 25 percent increase over what the agency will receive. Obama’s $308 million for the CFTC was a 50 percent hike from 2012 and 58 percent more than the 2013 spending in the offing.
The lower final budgets the agencies are getting for 2013 will make any increase Obama suggests for 2014 look bigger when both parties are pledging fiscal restraint.
While the sequester cuts are mostly across the board, few government agencies are facing as large an increase in mandated responsibilities as these two financial regulators.
Fiscal 2014 will mark the first full year of CFTC regulation of the derivatives industry, which is seven times larger than commodities, the agency’s traditional domain.
At the SEC, fiscal 2014 will be the first full year of oversight over hedge fund and private fund companies. Additionally, JOBS Act rules could be finished and enforcement begun during that budget cycle.