Lawmakers seek $40m restored in '03 for e-gov

Congress late last month entered the home stretch on finishing the fiscal 2003 budget when it named members to a conference committee to iron out differences between House and Senate spending bills.

As the process moved toward completion, lawmakers pushed for a restoration of the E-Government Fund. The White House requested $45 million to help fund the administration's 25 e-government initiatives, but both houses approved only $5 million.

Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) last month sent letters to the House and Senate Appropriations committees asking for the money to be reinstated. 'The $40 million is simply too important to let fall by the wayside,' said David Marin, Davis' spokesman. 'If we're serious about bringing the government into the 21st century, we need to put our money where our mouth is.'

House said no

The Senate slashed the money last month when putting the finishing touches on the omnibus fiscal 2003 appropriations bill. The House never funded the president's request, instead allocating $5 million for 2003'the same as it had for 2002.

'Without this sorely needed funding, the government will not benefit from collaborative technology projects that can make complex operations more efficient and effective and enhance our homeland security,' Davis said. 'The small amount requested for the E-Government Fund will go a long way toward pulling the government into the electronic age.'

When House and Senate spending bills agree on a figure, there is no reason for negotiation during conference, which could mean the request for restoring the funds goes unheeded, a House Appropriations staff member said.

'We are struggling to find money for first responders and other law enforcement areas, and we will have to make some reductions,' the spokesman said. 'I don't know how e-government will go in the conference, but there is only so much money to spend.'

The spokesman said the goal is to get the budget finished by Feb. 14.

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