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AAU Weekly Wrap-Up

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July 25, 2014


CONTENTS

BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES
Senate Appropriations Committee Publishes Reports for Three Draft FY15 Funding Bills NEW
--Senate FY15 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill Report
--Senate FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill Report
House Approves Black-Davis Higher Education Tax Credit Bill
White House Issues Agency Guidance for S&T in the FY16 Budget
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
House Approves Three Higher Education Bills UPDATED
Senator Harkin Introduces Bill to Restore Purchasing Power of NIH NEW

BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE PUBLISHES REPORTS FOR THREE FY15 DRAFT BILLS NEW

The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday published draft committee reports for three draft FY15 funding bills: Labor-HHS-Education, Energy and Water, and Financial Services-General Government. The release establishes Democrats’ priorities for the bills even as it appears that none of the three will be marked up in full committee. AAU follows Labor-HHS-Education and Energy and Water, but not Financial Services-General Government.

--Senate FY15 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill and Report

The Appropriations Committee has posted on its website the report to accompany the draft FY15 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill approved by subcommittee on June 10. The measure would provide $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $606 million above the FY14 level. Within that total, the bill includes $100 million for the second year of the multi-agency Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, an increase of $60 million.

For student financial aid, the subcommittee-approved bill would maintain the discretionary portion of the maximum Pell grant award at $4,860 for the 2015-2016 school year. When combined with mandatory funding, this would raise the maximum award by an estimated $100, to $5,830. The bill also would increase funding for several campus-based student aid programs. (See updated AAU Department of Education chart here.)

For the campus-based aid programs, the Senate bill would:

· raise funding for Federal Work Study by $35 million;

· raise funding for TRIO by $8.4 million;

· raise Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants by $15 million; and

· raise funding for GearUP by $3 million.

In addition, the bill would fund Title VI International Education programs at $81.2 million, an increase of $9 million. Some $5 million of the increase is for study abroad. The bill also includes $75 million for the President’s First in the World initiative, with $20 million set aside for minority-serving institutions.

For the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, the bill would provide $31 million, an increase of $1.7 million. As the higher education community requested, the humanities and social sciences are included as eligible fields for GAANN awards.

--Senate FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill and Report

The Senate Appropriations Committee has also posted the report to accompany its draft FY15 Energy and Water appropriations bill.

Reportedly, the measure would provide $5.086 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, a $15 million, or .3 percent, increase over FY14. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would receive $280 million, which is the same as the FY14 and House FY15 levels, and $45 million below the Administration’s FY15 request. The bill would also provide $2.073 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a $171.24 million, or 9 percent, increase over FY14, but $243.821 million below the Administration’s request.

Within the DOE Office of Science total, the Senate bill would provide:

· $557 million for Advanced Scientific Computing Research, a $78.4 million, or 16.4 percent, increase over FY14, and $16 million above either the House number or the Administration request;

· $1.8065 billion for Basic Energy Sciences, a $93.7 million, or 5.5 percent, increase over FY14 and level with the Administration’s request; within the total, the Senate would allocate $100 million to Energy Frontier Research Centers, $24.175 million to the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub, and $24.175 million to the Fuels from Sunlight Hub (contingent on the Office of Science completing an internal and peer review of the hub);

· $627.5 million for Biological and Environmental Research, a $17.34 million, or 2.8 percent, increase over FY14 and a reduction of $467,000 from the Administration request;

· $341 million for Fusion Energy Sciences, a $164.68 million, or 32.6 percent, reduction from FY14 and $75 million below the Administration request. The bill provides just $75 million for the international ITER project and directs DOE and the Office of Science to withdraw from the project;

· $774.482 million for High Energy Physics, a $23.04 million, or 2.9 percent, cut from FY14, but $30.48 million above the Administration request;

· $601.573 million for Nuclear Physics, a $31.64 million, or 5.6 percent, increase over FY14 and $8 million above the Administration request; and

· $29.5 million for Workforce Development, a $3 million, or 11.3 percent, increase over FY14 and $10 million above the Administration request; the total includes $10 million to continue the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship.

HOUSE APPROVES BLACK-DAVIS HIGHER EDUCATION TAX CREDIT BILL

The House yesterday approved the Student Family Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 3393), legislation introduced by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Danny Davis (D-IL) that consolidates and simplifies four existing education tax credits into a single permanent tax credit. The four credits are the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) issued this floor statement about the bill.

Last week, a group of higher education associations, including AAU, wrote to all Members of the House expressing appreciation for the bill’s consolidation of higher education tax credits and its better coordination with the Pell Grant, but detailing concerns about some of its provisions. Specifically, the associations said that certain changes in the bill would harm many low- and middle-income students who benefit from current law, as well as graduate students and lifetime learners who use the current tax deduction or the Lifetime Learning Credit. They said they could not support the bill as currently written and asked that the bill be further modified to ensure that students currently eligible for a federal tax benefit remain eligible for some benefit.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that supports making the AOTC permanent, but opposes the bill on the basis that it provides no funding offsets for its estimated 10-year cost of $16 billion.

WHITE HOUSE ISSUES AGENCY GUIDANCE FOR S&T IN THE FY16 BUDGET

The White House last week issued its annual memorandum to federal research agencies on how they should set science and technology (S&T) priorities in their FY16 budget requests.

As described by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the memo, released jointly by the Office of Management and Budget and OSTP, includes themes for FY16 that “are variations on themes from earlier years.” These include advanced manufacturing, clean energy, climate research, information technology, biological innovation, national security, and R&D for informed policymaking.

OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

HOUSE APPROVES THREE HIGHER EDUCATION BILLS UPDATED

The House this week approved three bills that would reauthorize portions of the Higher Education Act. The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136) and the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983) were approved on July 23; the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) was approved the next day, July 24.

A group of 17 higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter on July 22 to House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) expressing support for the three bills. They noted, “We are particularly pleased that all three of these bills received strong and widespread bipartisan support when the Committee approved them.”

The financial counseling bill, H.R. 4984, would improve financial counseling support for college students and their parents by:

· ensuring that both students and parents who participate in a federal loan program receive interactive counseling each year that reflects their individual borrowing situation;

· informing low-income students about the terms and conditions of the Pell Grant program through annual counseling that will be provided to all grant recipients; and

· directing the Secretary of Education to maintain and disseminate a consumer-tested, online counseling tool that institutions can use to provide annual loan counseling, exit counseling, and annual Pell Grant counseling.

SENATOR HARKIN INTRODUCES BILL TO RESTORE PURCHASING POWER OF NIH NEW

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, introduced legislation on July 24 aimed at restoring the buying power of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act (S. 2658) has been endorsed by several organizations, including AAU.

The Senator’s press release notes that after Congress doubled the NIH budget between 1998 and 2003, “austere budget caps” led to a 20-percent erosion in the agency’s purchasing power for biomedical research. The bill seeks to reverse that trend by instituting a budget cap adjustment that gives priority to NIH over the remaining fiscal years of the Budget Control Act. The measure would “require the Appropriations Committee to maintain the current funding of $29.9 billion for NIH, above which appropriations will rise up to $46.2 billion at the end of the seven year period from Fiscal Year 2015 to 2021.”

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