Nov. 30, 2004--Congress last week approved a temporary spending bill until legislators can revise the omnibus package they approved earlier this month, after it was revealed that the initial bill included a provision giving Congress access to individuals' income tax returns.

The $388 billion 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill provides funding for nine of the 13 scheduled appropriations categories for the fiscal year that began on October 1. The Senate has already approved the corrected version of the omnibus bill, according to the State department, while the House is scheduled to vote on it December 6.

Among the bill's 3,000 pages are support provisions for several small business and technology development initiatives, including the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Originally targeted for closure, the MEP instead received $109 million in funding for this year, according to the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the Public Forum Institute.

The bill re-authorizes the Small Business Administration for an additional two years and preserves key programs such as SBA's microloan initiatives and the Women's Business Center program. The NDE also reports that the bill maintains current user fees in SBA's 7(a) loan program.

The bill drew sharp fire from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the lobbying arm of the not-for-profit Citizens Against Government Waste, which pointed out numerous examples of what it labeled pork-barrel projects.

"This bill confirms that the appropriations process is broken," CCAGW President Tom Schatz said in a statement. "If Congress cannot make the easy decisions by eliminating unnecessary earmarks, like $200,000 for the Aviation Hall of Fame or $100,000 for the Punxsutawney Weather Museum, there is very little hope for social security or tax reform. Deeper cuts must be sought in the federal budget to prevent a fiscal disaster. A critical part of rooting out wasteful and unnecessary spending is to consider and debate appropriations bills separately, in a timely manner, in order to avoid resorting to a pork-filled omnibus."