Congress was treated to a fairly unusual request yesterday: a member of a government agency asked the House to "give us less money" than originally requested.
"We can do a better job with fewer dollars," Thomas A. Trantum, a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission, told the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation.
Trantum specifically suggested that Congress trim the ICC's fiscal 1982 budget request by 37 percent from $79 million to $50 million, and reduce its employment level by 600 from 1,600 to 1,000.
Trantum's testimony followed a presentation by Marcus Alexis, acting ICC chairman, on behalf of the higher numbers. Alexis said the ICC had already scaled down its budget request after a reevaluation of the agency's needs in light of the passage of rail and trucking deregulation measures. He said the revised budget would allow the agency to maintain its effectiveness and reach the lower employment target of 1,600 without undue dislocation of commission staff, which is now 1,796 strong.
"Employes who have worked hard over the past few years to help reform transportation regulation and to improve productivity should not be faced with sudden loss of jobs through reductions-in-force or other adverse actions," Alexis said.
Trantum contended that the ICC offered Congress an opportunity to cut the federal budget by $29 million without sacrificing any statutory obligations that the ICC has or necessary services it provides. The regulatory reform efforts that concentrate on reducing economic regulation must be followed by administrative reforms, he contended.
"We have come a long way toward deregulation but we must continue to eliminate unwarranted bureaucratic intrusions into the rail and motor carrier industries," he said. "At the same time, we must respond to President Reagan's fiscal challenge by sharply reducing the direct costs of our regulatory activities."
Administrative reform has not kept pace with the regulatory reform at the ICC, Trantum said. He used the agency's regulation of entry into the trucking industry as an example. The trucking statute requires the commission to review each and every application by a trucking company for route authority, he noted. Out of 22,000 applications expected during fiscal 1982, less than 1 percent of all applications can be expected to be denied for substantive reasons using current statistics. However, adjudication of these cases accounts for most of the $27 million to be spent on trucking matters that year.
Trantum suggested a structural realignment of the agency, elimination of nonessential functions and programs, increased efficiency and increased use of a congressional mandate to reduce ICC interference in the day-to-day operations of companies.