Both the House and the Senate had district work periods this week, but will be in session next week.
President’s Budget Forthcoming: “An End to the Era of Austerity”
The Washington Post reported today that the President’s budget—which will begin to be unveiled on March 4—will “call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency. Instead, President Barack Obama will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class.” He will abandon some attempts to rein in entitlement spending as well as some efforts to exact higher tax revenues on the wealthiest.
The president is expected to press for some continued entitlement reforms, including means-testing for Medicare. His proposal will call for tens of billions of new spending into workforce education, as well as 45 new advanced manufacturing institutes. These developments, the Post surmises, is a result of the decreasing potency of the federal deficit as a political issue. While still elevated by historical standards, the budget deficit has decreased dramatically since the depths of the great recession.
As in years past, OGR will submit programmatic request letters to the Illinois Congressional delegation as part of the Appropriations process. That process is happening on a tight deadline—Congress is not waiting on the president, whose budget is late again this year. If there are specific funding lines in the federal budget that are important to your campus, college, or unit, please be sure to reach out to us no later than March 7 so that we may ensure your priorities are considered.
White House Acts on ‘Patent Trolls’
After announcing his intent in last month’s State of the Union address, and as part of his campaign to take unilateral action in the face of Congressional gridlock, President Obama and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker yesterday announced a series of executive actions to combat “patent trolls”—those who sue accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but who do not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents at hand. The efforts seek to decrease the number of flawed patents issued by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).
Acting PTO chief Michelle Lee convened a roundtable with patent reform advocates and opponents, including AAU and APLU, to discuss legislative action. The House-passed legislation in December split the tech industry and university communities. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) raised UI concerns in a public hearing and helped slow down the Senate Judiciary Committee’s process. UI supports a Senate bill but opposes controversial riders that could weaken rights of our inventors. We have requested additional legislative hearings with university witnesses.
Chairman Camp Voices Intention to Advance Tax Reform Despite Unfavorable Odds
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp announced that he will be releasing a discussion draft of a tax code overhaul next week. Committee minority members and staff have not been consulted in preparing the draft, which casts doubt on it's ultimate future. At this point, we do not know if the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act (sponsored by Reps. Danny Davis and Diane Black) will be included within the discussion draft. As written, this legislation would would consolidate four higher education tax benefits—the tuition deduction, the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), and the Lifetime Learning Credit—into an updated, permanent AOTC.
Bipartisanship Displayed at Immigration Reform Forum
On Tuesday, the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted a bipartisan panel discussion on bridging the divide on immigration reform. Forum participants included Sen. Mark Kirk, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
Following the event, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy and President Robert Easter, who serve on the IBIC steering committee, expressed their gratitude to Rep. Kinzinger for openly engaging in such an important bipartisan conversation. OGR tweeted its thanks to Rep. Kinzinger. UI has several priorities in immigration reform, including citizenship for STEM visa graduates and DREAM students.
ILLINOIS IN DC
Urbana Professor of Physics Dr. Laura Greene and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Dr. David Cahill were in DC this week as part of an annual fly-in for the American Physical Society. They met with the offices of Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk as well as the offices of Rep. Randy Hultgren, Rep. Bill Foster, and Rep. Rodney Davis to discuss the importance of federal funding for basic and applied research.
There is still no official word from the Department of Defense about the status of the UI LABS-led application to host the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDI). We anticipate a public announcement in February.
Urbana Director of Student Financial Aid, Dan Mann, was recently elected as National Chair-Elect for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). NASFAA is comprised of nearly 20,000 student financial assistance professionals from approximately 3,000 institutions of higher education. Congratulations Dan and best of luck in this new leadership role!
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations