The chief safety and soundness regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seized the opportunity at a congressional hearing last week to reiterate her request for a budget increase.

Aida Alvarez, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, said the agency needs an additional $857,000 to hire seasoned financial analysts and examiners. Its budget for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, is $15 million.

The agency is unusual among financial regulators in being required to receive Congressional approval for its budget every year, even though the funds come from levies on Fannie and Freddie.

Ms. Alvarez has sought the funding increase before, but members of Congress have balked.

However, her testimony before a House Banking Committee panel last Wednesday went so swimmingly that Rep. Richard Baker - who has been a critic of the agency - asked Ms. Alvarez if Congress could help her in any way. That's when she made her budget pitch.

Rep. Baker, a Louisiana Republican, heads the subcommittee on capital markets, securities and government-sponsored enterprises, which held the hearing on privatization of the government-chartered mortgage companies.

Ms. Alvarez won some support when the subcommittee reconvened on Thursday to hear from executives of the agencies, formally the Federal National Mortgage Association and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J., attended the hearing just to say that the oversight agency should be freed from the annual Congressional budget review.

In her testimony, Ms. Alvarez backed studies by the Congressional Budget Office, Treasury Department, and General Accounting Office that have found Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac retained a large portion of their implicit federal subsidies.

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