Mary Schapiro, chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said the commission would be able to run more smoothly and take on tougher investigations if it were able to fund itself directly from industry fees. The SEC takes in $1 billion each year but must get congressional approval for its budget before spending any of it. "Self-funding has been discussed over the years, but I think it may now well be the moment," Schapiro said. "Some stability in funding would be an enormous benefit because it would help with long-term planning in such areas as technology and staffing."

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