The Office of Management and Budget, responding to a plea from the new chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, yesterday withdrew its order to the agency to make extensive budget cuts and personnel reductions in the next fiscal year.
Last week, OMB told the commission to cut its fiscal 1986 budget by 30 percent and its staff by 25 percent. But after appealing the order yesterday, Terrence M. Scanlon -- who was appointed chairman last Friday -- said OMB will require CPSC only to make the 10 percent administrative cuts and 5 percent personnel pay cuts that the budget office has ordered from all federal agencies.
Scanlon said that after his negotiations with OMB, the new proposed CPSC budget for fiscal 1986 will be $33.7 million, or $8.7 million more than the original OMB-proposed budget of $25 million. In the current fiscal year, CPSC's budget is $36 million.
No staff cuts will be required, even in the field, Scanlon added.
The reversal by OMB came two days after Scanlon was sworn in as CPSC chairman by his predecessor, Nancy Harvey Steorts, who earlier had appealed the budget cuts without success.
Scanlon's appointment was opposed by some consumer advocates who contended his objective would be to deregulate industry covered by the agency's rules.
"We are pleased that Commissioner Scanlon has consulted us on numerous occasions, but are disappointed that he has voted against the consumer interest on virtually every issue considered by the commission in the past three years," Steve Brobeck, of the Consumer Federation of America, said before Scanlon was appointed chairman. "There is a serious question whether he is prepared to require safety regulation when business fails to regulate itself."
Scanlon said in an interview yesterday that he has no intention of dismantling the agency, as some critics had speculated last week. "Although all federal agencies need belt-tightening because of the huge national deficit," Scanlon said, he was unhappy with the OMB's proposed budget cuts last week.
But some consumer groups expressed skepticism yesterday about OMB's change of heart.
"The administration obviously has a strategy which has OMB intentionally scaring everyone by pushing for dramatic cuts," said Gene Kimmelman, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America. "OMB is still making sizeable cuts in the agency," Kimmelman said. "But it appears to be a reasonable compromise given where OMB started."
Outgoing chairman Steorts said last week that the agency had already absorbed a 15 percent reduction in funding and a 36 percent reduction in staffing levels since fiscal year 1981. The agency had originally requested $37.35 million for fiscal 1986.