Harry S. Truman photo

Veto of Bill To Provide Without Charge Certain Information From the Census Records.

August 09, 1949

To the House of Representatives:

I am returning herewith, without my approval, H.R. 142, amending section 18 of the Act entitled "An Act to provide for the fifteenth and subsequent decennial censuses and to provide for apportionment of Representatives in Congress."

The bill provides that no charge shall be made by the Bureau of the Census for supplying population data to members of the armed services or persons honorably discharged therefrom, or to persons requesting information as proof of age for the purpose of eligibility for old-age and survivorship insurance benefits.

The present fee of $1.00 for handling an application for population data has been in effect since July 1942 when it was instituted at the behest of the House Appropriations Committee. At that time the Appropriations Committee was following a policy of placing governmental services of this character on a self-sustaining basis insofar as possible. The original decision was sound, and in consonance with an equally sound policy of bringing about economy in government operations wherever possible.

In my 1948 Budget Message I stated, "While it is not sound public policy to charge for all services of the Federal Government on a full cost basis, and many services should be provided free, the Government should receive adequate compensation for certain services primarily of direct benefit to limited groups." I continue to hold this belief, and in this instance there seems to be no justification for abandoning present practice. Approval might well establish a precedent jeopardizing the established principle of charging fees for special services.

The fee charged in this case is nominal. The Government already bears the cost of maintaining the necessary records and the applicant pays only for the direct cost of searching the records and transmitting the information.

It is difficult to estimate the cost to the Government of supplying this information free of charge to the groups designated in the bill. The number of requests might be expected to rise significantly with the elimination of the fee so that the future workload for this operation could be uncertain. However, the Census Bureau estimates that the additional cost would approximate $136,000 annually. Although this is not a large amount, it is an unnecessary expenditure of public funds.


Note: The President's message and a copy of the bill are published in House Document 295 (81st Cong., 1st sess.).

Harry S Truman, Veto of Bill To Provide Without Charge Certain Information From the Census Records. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229833

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