In this election season it has become nearly impossible to pass bills that were once routine, but there may be at least one exception: related to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Last week, the Republican-led U.S. House Appropriations Committee unveiled its bill to finance the SBA and several other government agencies. And what is most notable about the four pages dealing with the SBA is the prospect for comity, not conflict.
In all, House Republicans have proposed appropriating $1.16 billion to the SBA — $989 million excluding disaster funding — about $40 million more than the Obama Administration has sought and $237 million more than the agency received this year. In its broad outlines, the funding proposal from the House is remarkably similar to the administration’s request. The main difference is that the House finances subsidies that would permit the SBA to guarantee more lending in its main loan programs than the administration would. The increase may not have a meaningful impact on lending, though, since these figures are ceilings, and it’s not clear that lending will reach them. (If the first eight months of the 2012 fiscal year are indicative, the agency won’t come close to bumping up against the 2013 ceilings.) More meaningfully, the House would direct $112.5 million to small business development centers, as much as the centers received last year and $11.5 million more than the administration requested.
On June 14, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee produced its own bill financing the SBA (among other agencies) and largely followed the same template, proposing $1.12 billion. That is less than the House bill, but it directs more money to microlending and to the counseling programs than either the House proposes or the administration wants. At the same time, it pares back the House’s loan subsidy (and corresponding lending limits) to the administration’s request.