GOP PLAN WOULD TRIPLE AD BUDGET OF CENSUS BUREAU: $300 MIL IN SPENDING TO COMBAT FALLING QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSE RATE

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In a move that would make the Census Bureau the top advertiser in the U.S. government, House Republicans are proposing the bureau's ad budget be expanded dramatically-from about $100 million to $300 million-for advertising and outreach programs during a period of six to eight months, starting in October.

The increase has been approved by the House Government Reform & Oversight Committee, and could come up for a full House vote as soon as mid-April when Congress returns from an Easter break.

The increase still would need Senate approval, and then an appropriations bill would have to be approved in the fall.

Young & Rubicam, New York, won the multiyear contract for the Census Bureau campaign a little more than a year ago.

MINORITY PROJECTIONS

The new proposal was offered by Rep. Dan Miller (R., Fla.), in part as a Republican alternative to making adjustments to Census data based on statistical projections of undercounts.

Republicans fear adjusting for an undercount of minorities would most benefit Democrats. Thus they are calling for a more intensive effort to achieve a more accurate count in the 2000 census.

They suggest that the $150 million or so the government is spending annually on anti-drug ads indicates that funding for census ads should be far higher, given the importance of the count.

INCREASING RESPONSE RATE

Rep. Miller, speaking at an American Advertising Federation government affairs conference last week, said the advertising would be aimed at increasing the response rate to mailed questionnaires. It has been dropping in recent census counts, and could hit as low as 60% next year.

When census forms aren't returned, the bureau has to send enumerators out at considerably greater expense.

Mr. Miller said he was hopeful the additional money would improve returns and also allow campaigns in additional languages. Y&R's contract calls for ads from a coalition of its agencies, including those specializing in various ethnic groups.

Democrats didn't oppose the bill in committee and may not on the floor, said one Democratic committee official.

"It can't do any harm, but it's probably not cost-effective," he said.

In 1980, the Census Bureau relied almost totally on public service announcements

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