AAU WEEKLY WRAP-UP
February 28, 2014
CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW
Innovation Task Force Urges FY15 Funding Priority for Research NEW
Ways and Means Chair’s Tax Overhaul Plan Would Affect Universities, Students UPDATED
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
AAU, APLU Endorse Manufacturing Innovation Bill UPDATED
Associations Detail Concerns about Proposed IRS Changes for Nonprofits NEW
Organizations Launch “Close the Innovation Deficit” Video, Revamped Website UPDATED
First Golden Goose Award for 2014 Announced NEW
Campuses Encouraged to Nominate Young Scientists for ASPIRE Prize NEW
CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW
The Senate was not in session today; the House met today to consider legislation to expand and modify the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (H.R. 899). Both chambers will reconvene on Monday, March 3. The Senate will consider an executive branch nomination; the House legislative schedule has not been announced.
BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS
INNOVATION TASK FORCE URGES FY15 FUNDING PRIORITY FOR RESEARCH NEW
The Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI), in which AAU participates, sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees on February 24 urging them to make scientific research a top priority as they consider allocations of FY15 funding among their respective 12 subcommittees.
The letter said, “…recent sequestration cuts and declining federal investments in scientific research over the past several years, combined with rapid advances in other countries are creating an innovation deficit that threatens our long-term leadership role.” The TFAI letter urged the appropriations leaders to provide funding allocations for specific subcommittees sufficient to provide “strong investments in scientific research” at the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It also encouraged them to “send a strong signal in the allocations process for needed scientific research investments in other agencies, especially the basic research accounts within the Department of Defense.”
WAYS AND MEANS CHAIR’S TAX OVERHAUL PLAN WOULD AFFECT UNIVERSITIES, STUDENTS UPDATED
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) on February 26 introduced an ambitious plan to overhaul the federal tax code that contains several provisions of significant concern to the higher education community. The proposal would streamline individual and corporate tax brackets, lower tax rates, and modify or eliminate a number of tax breaks and incentives, including several that are important to higher education.
An initial review indicates that the bill contains provisions that would adversely affect students’ ability to pay for college, potentially reduce charitable giving, increase regulatory and compliance burdens, and make it harder for universities to carry out their missions. See the Inside Higher Ed story for additional views.
The legislation would, among other things:
· incorporate elements of the Black-Davis Student and Family Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 3393), including making permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and allow some Pell Grant recipients to better benefit from the AOTC;
· repeal the tuition deduction for both undergraduate and graduate students;
· repeal the student loan interest deduction;
· significantly pare back Section 127 employer-provided education assistance benefits;
· repeal Section 117(c) tuition remission benefits that universities may offer their employees;
· modify provisions affecting charitable giving, including provisions affecting valuation of property and limitations on taxpayers’ adjusted gross income levels, and establish a two-percent floor before charitable contributions could be deducted;
· allow the IRA charitable rollover to expire;
· add new requirements affecting executive compensation for nonprofits;
· make taxable private activity (tax-exempt) bonds for private colleges and universities;
· change unrelated business taxable income (UBIT) provisions affecting tax-exempt entities, including making name and logo royalties subject to taxation, requiring UBIT to be calculated separately for each trade or business activity, and limiting the UBIT exemption for research income to income derived from research made available to the public;
· impose a new excise tax on investment income of private colleges and universities; and
· modify and make permanent the R&D tax credit.
There are other provisions in the legislation that also would affect research universities.
The plan was met with little enthusiasm on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he welcomed “a public conversation about the issue of tax reform,” without offering comments on specific provisions in the measure. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the package stands no chance of approval in this election year.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
AAU, APLU ENDORSE MANUFACTURING INNOVATION BILL UPDATED
AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) on February 26 sent a letter to Senate sponsors of the Revitalize American Manufacturing Act of 2013 (RAMI), expressing preliminary support for the bill (S. 1468), which would establish a new network of regional public-private manufacturing institutes. The letter was copied to Reps. Tom Reed (D-NY) and Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), who introduced the measure (H.R. 2996) in the House.
The two associations told Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) they could fully support S. 1648 if a provision related to the applicability of the Bayh-Dole Act to research authorized under the act was modified. The change is expected to be included in a manager’s amendment that will be offered during markup in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on March 5.
RAMI aims to support development of such consortia as the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute based in the Detroit area and the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute based in Chicago, which President Obama announced on February 25.
ASSOCIATIONS DETAIL CONCERNS ABOUT PROPOSED IRS CHANGES FOR NONPROFITS NEW
A group of 57 state and national higher education associations, including AAU, submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on February 27, expressing serious concerns about the agency’s proposed changes in rules governing the political campaign activities of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
The organizations, led by the American Council on Education (ACE), expressed particular concern about the possibility that the IRS could extend proposed restrictions on campaign-related activities of so-called social welfare organizations under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code to include section 501(c)(3) organizations. This could have unintended consequences.
ORGANIZATIONS LAUNCH “CLOSE THE INNOVATION DEFICIT” VIDEO, REVAMPED WEBSITE UPDATED
With President Obama’s FY15 budget plan set for release next week and the appropriations process getting underway, a group of 14 organizations, including AAU, on February 27 launched a creative video that urges Congress to Close the Innovation Deficit with strong federal investments in research and higher education.
As discussed in the accompanying press release, the four-minute video, featuring rapidly hand-drawn images and text, explains the direct link between basic research, economic growth, improved medical treatments, and national security. The video also shows the risk that recent cuts to research pose to the United States’ role as the global innovation leader at a time when other nations are rapidly increasing their research investments, as well as the significant benefits that renewed investments in research would bring the country.
The innovation deficit is the gap between actual and needed federal investments in research and higher education at a time when other nations such as China, India, and Singapore are dramatically boosting research funding to develop the next great technological and medical breakthroughs.
The redesigned Close the Innovation Deficit website now features a fact sheet and an array of compelling charts that detail the effects that U.S. cuts and foreign investments in research are having on the nation’s role as innovation leader.
FIRST GOLDEN GOOSE AWARD FOR 2014 ANNOUNCED NEW
More than 150 people attended a symposium on the Golden Goose Award held at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago on February 15. Among the participants were Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL). The Golden Goose Award was created three years ago at the suggestion of Rep. Cooper by a coalition of groups, including AAU. The award honors researchers whose federally funded work may not have seemed to have practical applications when it was conducted but resulted in major benefits to society.
At the event, Rep. Hultgren announced the first of this year’s awardees, Dr. Larry Smarr. Dr. Smarr’s research on calculating black hole collisions in space led him to champion a federal commitment to developing far greater U.S. computational power. That expansion, in turn, enabled development of the first widely used graphical Web browser, Mosaic, and its successors. Dr. Smarr will receive his award and be honored with other 2014 awardees at the third annual Golden Goose Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on September 18.
Reps. Cooper and Hultgren published an op-ed about the award in the Washington, DC publication, The Hill.
CAMPUSES ENCOURAGED TO NOMINATE YOUNG SCIENTISTS FOR ASPIRE PRIZE NEW
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), an organization of 21 Pacific-Rim countries, including the United States, has announced the 2014 ASPIRE Award. The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education—called the “ASPIRE Prize”— honors a young scientist who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in scientific research, has cooperated with scientists from other APEC-member economies, and has contributed to this year’s theme of “Intelligent Transportation.”
Since each country submits a single nomination for the ASPIRE Prize, campuses interested in having a young scientist considered for the award should submit a nomination form to the State Department by Friday, April 11, 2014. Each campus may submit up to four nominations. (The State Department then submits a nominee to the awards committee by May 16, 2014.) Nomination materials are available here.
Questions about the ASPIRE Prize should be directed to Jonathan Peterson (PetersonJE1@state.gov) in the State Department’s Office of Science and Technology Cooperation. Please include “APEC ASPIRE Prize 2014” in the subject line.
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