‘Innovation Deficit’ Messaging Picking Up Steam
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced she will hold a hearing on innovation and budget cuts on April 29. The goal, she said, is “to make sure that budget cuts and the possibility of future sequester do not dampen our standing as a world innovation leader.” She added that appropriators were concerned not only about the federal budget deficit, but also about the “innovation deficit”—the widening gap between the actual level of government funding for research and higher education and what that number needs to be to preserve the United States’ role as an innovation leader. This initiative is a key strategic messaging initiative by AAU, APLU, and the Science Coalition.
A growing number of Members of Congress are tweeting about the innovation deficit from both sides of the aisle—including Sen. Dick Durbin. University of Illinois stakeholders can join the online chorus using the Twitter hashtag #innovationdeficit and describing how federal funding cuts could jeopardize the great work around grand challenges on our campuses.
Ryan Budget Released, Threatens Higher Ed, Research Priorities
This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced an FY15 budget resolution. It sticks to the FY15 discretionary spending caps set by last year’s budget agreement. However, it also proposes to cut federal spending by $5.1 trillion over 10 years, significantly changing major federal programs. The measure could be considered on the House floor as early as next week.
Among many provisions affecting universities, the Ryan budget would: freeze the maximum Pell Grant for 10 years, restrict eligibility, and transform the program into a purely discretionary spending program; eliminate funding for the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) and National Endowment of the Arts (NEA); prioritize basic research over applied research; modify sequestration shifting all future cuts to defense to the non-defense discretionary side of the ledger, putting additional pressure on so many programs so important to the University of Illinois.
The good news: the budget stands little chance of enactment as Senate Democrats see no reason to approve a new budget resolution given last year’s budget agreement. However, the the budget remains an important messaging blueprint for the GOP in an election year and lends support to efforts to change research policies, eliminate certain domestic agencies, and significantly cut funding for specific research and education programs. OGR is monitoring the budget, working with our national associations, and communicating to our delegation that this budget would widen our nation’s innovation deficit.
‘Patent Troll’ Bill Slips One Week
Amid growing opposition to the ‘patent troll’ bill in the Senate, the markup of the bill was postponed until Tuesday. This week, AAU, APLU, and the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) joined a growing consortium of voices expressing concerns with the bill in a coalition letter that also listed companies from Illinois and the Midwest, including Illinois Tool Works, Caterpillar, Monsanto, and P&G. In opening statements, Sen. Durbin highlighted that Illinois’ business community is divided and reinforced “the need to protect legitimate innovators,” including universities, biotech, and others. We are grateful for his leadership.
Key Senate Committee Extends Higher Ed Provisions in Tax Bill
The Senate Finance Committee passed the EXPIRE Act this afternoon, legislation that would temporarily extend expired tax provisions including provisions important to the higher education community such as the deduction for tuition and fees, IRA charitable rollover, and the Research & Development tax credit. In his opening statement, Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) voiced his support for comprehensive tax reform and pledged this would be the last tax extenders bill the Committee would take up under his leadership.
The outlook for tax extenders is unclear as House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has expressed his intention to seek permanent solutions to the expired provisions and a review of the merits of each provision.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations