Policy Update: April 24, 20112

Congress returned from the Easter/Passover recess last week and quickly turned its attention to budget and appropriations matters, and the State began work on its budget yesterday, as well.

Also last week, the House Homeland Security Committee passed cyber security legislation. Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA) offered an amendment that Northeastern worked on with his office and highlighted the University in his remarks. Further, as a follow-up to our recent congressional briefing, Kostas Institute Co-Director Steve Flynn will testify today before Congressman Keating's Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in a hearing entitled "America is Under Cyber Attack: Why Urgent Action is Needed."

Appropriations Update

Last Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its funding allocations for the twelve subcommittees that control spending for the federal government. The Committee set overall discretionary spending in FY'13 at $1.047 trillion, in accordance with last year's Budget Control Act debt limit agreement. This sets up a confrontation later this year with the House, which in late March set its proposed level of discretionary spending at $19 billion below the Senate level. Of particular note, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education allocation, which funds the NIH, received a 1% increase over the FY12 level. It is not clear yet when (or even if) the Labor-HHS-Education bills will begin to move in either house.

Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS)

Last week, both the House and Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittees approved versioners of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Overall, these bills were a mixed bag for these agencies. In both the House and Senate, NSF and NIST are the clearest winners as they would receive substantial increases over their FY 2012 funding levels. In the Senate, NASA Science also fares well. However, the Senate bill would deal a heavy blow to NOAA, by transferring its weather satellite programs to NASA. In the House, NSF also received a substantial increase, but NASA and NOAA would be cut. Below is a table with more info:

AGENCY

HOUSE

CHANGE FROM FY12

SENATE

CHANGE FROM FY12

NSF $7.3B + 299M $7.3B + $240M (3.4%)
NIST $830M + 79M $826M + $75M (10%)
NOAA $5.0B + 68M $3.4B - $1.47V

NASA

$17.6B

- 226M

$19.4B $1.6B

Energy & Water (DOE)

Last week, the House Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee also approved its proposed FY'13 bill. While the overall funding level is $88 million above the FY 2012 enacted level, the House recommends $26.3 billion for the Dept. of Energy, a reduction of $365 million below the FY 2012 enacted level, and $1.8 billion below the President’s request. The bill would provide $4.825 billion, a reduction of $48.7 million (one percent) below the current level for the DOE Office of Science and would reduce funding for ARPA-E to $200 million, a cut of $75 million (27 percent) below the current level. Finally, the bill would reduce funding for DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) programs to $1.451 billion, a reduction of $358.7 million (20 percent) below the current level and $816.4 million (36 percent) below the President’s request.

We continue to advocate in support of increased research funding that the University would benefit from. We will monitor these issues as additional subcommittees markup their proposed FY'13 bills.

Massachusetts State Budget Update

Finally, the State House of Representatives is also considering its proposed FY'13 state budget, which begins on July 1. Among other items of interest, the draft version of the House budget would provide a 1% cut for state financial aid programs. However, House Higher Education Chairman Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) offered an amendment to add $5.4 million for need-based financial aid. While the House did not pass this full amount, they did restore the funding cut. This would offset the proposed cut as well as reductions in the average award caused by a near 70 percent increase in the number of eligible students for financial aid over the last few years. Three other proposed amendments would have eliminated eligibility for state financial aid for Massachusetts students who enroll in private independent colleges, but these amendments were defeated.

As it did last year, the proposed budget would also cut funding by $250,000 for the Massachusetts Service Alliance, which provides funds for the Mass Promise Fellowship program housed at Northeastern. We are working in support of an amendment filed to restore these funds.