WASHINGTON — Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the National Credit Union Administration to hold public hearings and receive comments on its annual operating budget.

Debate has been growing in recent months after Mark McWatters, an NCUA board member, raised concerns about the budget process at the agency's November board meeting. Public budget hearings were discontinued in 2009 under Debbie Matz, the agency's chair. The lawmakers' bill, the National Credit Union Administration Budget Transparency Act, would amend the Federal Credit Union Act, requiring the agency to make its draft budget proposal available and give notice for a hearing and public comments.

"The National Credit Union Administration should hold public hearings detailing its budget annually. This is not a foreign practice to the NCUA, and it should not become extinct," said Sen. Heller in a press release.

The NCUA said in a fact sheet included with its 2015 budget that the agency "discloses more information regarding its budget and spending than independent federal financial regulatory agencies are required to make available to the public."

"In fact, NCUA provides more financial information than its regulated credit unions are required to provide to their own members," the fact sheet added.

The NCUA is funded by the more than 6,000 credit unions it supervises.

A NCUA spokesman said that "Chairman Matz strongly opposes the bill, as it would undermine the independence of the agency and lead to regulatory capture.

"No other financial institutions regulator is subject to an annual budget hearing requirement or conducts such a hearing," the spokesman said.

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