March 18, 2016
BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, & TAX ISSUES
HOUSE FY17 BUDGET PLAN CALLS FOR MAJOR OUTYEAR FUNDING CUTS
The House Budget Committee on March 16 approved the FY17 budget resolution
released March 15 by Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA). The vote was 20 to 16, with two Republicans and all Democrats voting against it. The measure is
not likely to be considered on the House floor until the week of April 11, reports Politico, because House leaders do not want to schedule
consideration during next week’s abbreviated session and the House will be in recess the following two weeks.
While the committee-passed budget resolution abides by the FY17 discretionary spending levels set in last year’s two-year budget deal, it also calls for
major cuts in nondefense discretionary spending over the following nine years and $30 billion in mandatory spending cuts over two years.
The proposal would cut overall discretionary spending under the Budget Control Act caps by $620 billion over the next decade. Within the reduced
discretionary caps, the budget would increase defense discretionary spending by $267 billion, and cut nondefense discretionary spending by $887 billion over the 10-year period.
For mandatory spending, the budget directs five committees to find $30 billion in mandatory savings for FY17 and FY18 and at least $140 billion in savings
over 10 years, reports Politico.
--AAU Issues Statement about House FY17 Budget Resolution
AAU on March 15 issued a statement about the House FY17 budget resolution that criticized its
proposed deep cuts in nondefense discretionary spending in FY18 and beyond.
The statement noted that such cuts “could devastate the nation’s investments in research and higher education,” adding, “These cuts would make an American
innovation deficit all but inevitable in the years to come, as other countries continue to invest heavily in the people, ideas, and discoveries essential
to innovation, economic growth, health, and national security.”
The statement concluded:
“The nation faces long-term fiscal issues, and the solution is not to reduce our investments but to reform entitlement programs and taxes in ways that
control spending, raise revenues, and protect the most vulnerable in our society. These steps are more difficult than cutting discretionary spending, but
they are the right ones for our nation’s future.”
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE TO MARK UP FIRST FY17 APPROPRIATIONS BILL
Although the House has not approved its FY17 budget resolution, House appropriators plan to mark up the FY17 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs
(MilCon-VA) bill in subcommittee on Wednesday, March 23, reports Politico. No other subcommittee markups are scheduled.
MilCon-VA Subcommittee chairman Charlie Dent (R-PA) told the publication that funding would be provided according to the discretionary spending levels
agreed to in last year’s budget deal. The full Appropriations Committee may mark up the bill on April 13, Politico says, at which time the
committee would release the allocation levels for all 12 appropriations subcommittees.
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR PLANS TO INCREASE NIH FY17 APPROPRIATIONS
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies on March 16 held its annual hearing with National Institutes of Health
(NIH) Director Francis Collins and four NIH institute directors.
Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) pledged to increase FY17 NIH funding and to maintain the subcommittee’s strong bipartisan support of NIH. He and
other Republican and Democratic members of the subcommittee rejected the President’s proposal to increase NIH funding with mandatory spending saying,
“Proposing new, mandatory, one-time spending that may never materialize is not the path to do this.”
Central topics of the hearing were Alzheimer’s disease, the Administration’s proposed cancer moonshot, the opioid epidemic, and the spread of the Zika
virus. Members of the subcommittee expressed their thanks to Dr. Collins for an earlier visit to the NIH Clinical Center.
HIGHER EDUCATION ASSOCIATIONS SUBMIT JOINT FY17 APPROPRIATIONS REQUESTS
A group of 22 higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter to House and
Senate appropriations committee leaders on March 17, asking them to support “the critical programs under your authority that serve students, institutions,
The letter, led by the American Council on Education, provides FY17 funding requests for specific student financial aid, institutional support, and other
higher education programs, as well as for research and technology programs at several federal science agencies. The latter include NIH, the National
Science Foundation, NASA, and the Departments of Agriculture and Energy.
SENATE CONFIRMS JOHN B. KING AS SECRETARY OF EDUCATION
The Senate on March 14 confirmed John King, Jr. as Secretary of Education. The vote was 49 to 40, with seven Republicans, including Health, Education,
Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), voting in favor of his confirmation. Chairman Alexander issued this statement
about Dr. King’s confirmation.
SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE OKAYS FAA BILL WITH SUAS LANGUAGE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
The Senate Commerce Committee on March 16 approved by voice vote the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization Act of 2016 (S. 2658). The bill
was reported with an
amendment in the nature of a substitute
that includes language negotiated by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) on the use of unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) at institutions of higher education.
The higher education sUAS language directs the FAA administrator to establish risk-based procedures and standards to streamline applications for the
operation of sUAS at “institutions of higher education in an academic setting.” The amendment is intended to facilitate the use of sUAS by colleges and
universities for purposes of instructing students and conducting research projects and other activities, including general research, engineering, robotics,
and data collection.
Earlier this month, Senators Peters and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced legislation to address this issue. Their bill (S. 2626) would have allowed
universities to operate small unmanned aircraft for educational and research purposes without specific FAA approval or registration, if the universities
met certain safety requirements. AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities issued a
on March 3 in support of S. 2626.
LABOR DEPARTMENT DRAFT OVERTIME RULE AT OMB; LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO BLOCK IMPLEMENTATION
The Department of Labor on March 14 sent to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs a draft of its final
modifications to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations affecting white collar employee exemptions for overtime compensation.
As previously reported, AAU joined 17 other higher education associations last September in submitting extensive comments to the Department detailing concerns about the
proposed FLSA changes. Of greatest import, the Department would increase the minimum income threshold for exemptions to overtime pay requirements from
$23,660 to $50,440 and implement the dramatic increase without any phase-in period.
In a related development, Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate on March 17 introduced the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, which seeks to
block the Department from implementing the proposed rule.
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