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FY11 Budget Overview

Despite an overall spending freeze proposal from the Obama administration, the student aid and research priorities of the higher education community faired relatively well in the President’s Budget Request for FY11. Within the Department of Education, the PBR seeks to increase the maximum Pell grant to $5,710 in FY11 from the current $5,550 level. More importantly, the proposal would make the Pell grant an entitlement, which would guarantee future increases. However, several of the agency’s student services programs (e.g. TRIO, GEAR UP, Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need) were level funded in the proposal.

On the research side, the National Institutes of Health were provided an increase of $1 billion (3.2%) over FY10 in the FY11 PBR -representing the largest NIH dollar increase in 8 years (outside of the Recovery Act). Additionally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is provided an 8% increase to $7.4 billion. Within NSF, the Ocean Observatories Initiative — a UW joint project — was provided $90.7 million for FY11 -as expected. The Department of Energy, Office of Science, is provided a 4.4% increase in the PBR. Within DoE, the Advanced Research Projects Agency -Energy (ARPA-E) is slated for its first significant regular annual appropriation -at a level of $300 million. Additionally, workforce investments for scientists and teachers is identified as a priority area for the agency.

The PBR includes an extension of an additional six months, through June 2011, the temporary Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) increase provided by the Recovery Act. The extension will result in an additional $25.5 billion to States for maintaining support for children and families helped by Medicaid. Details on agency and program line items are provided in previous posts, and additional analysis will be provided by the Office of Federal Relations.

The UW FY11 Federal Agenda will express support for many of the increases in student aid and research contained in the PBR. Additionally, UW specific requests will be made in the following areas: tidal energy research and development; promoting health professions through dental, nursing, and physicians assistant programs; environmental sustainability; increasing student services for our returning veterans; emerging research on the treatment of battlefield injuries to eyes and bone; small business development in the Tacoma area; and increasing K-12 learning outcomes through the use of advanced technology in classrooms.

The FY11 appropriations process will play out in the halls of Congress over much of this calendar year, with the goal of having a final budget in place by October 1, 2010. However, as was the case last year, Congress often requires extra time to push spending bills across the finish line.

Timeline Slipping for Major Legislation

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) announced this week that a climate bill will not likely emerge before the spring of 2010. The announcement confirms that at least 1 of 3 (and likely all 3) of President Obama’s top legislative initiatives for 2009 will slip into 2010 -the other two being health care and student aid reform. Some proponents of the three pieces of legislation hoped to move to completion this year, as to avoid political considerations made by the 2010 mid-term election season. The cap-and-trade climate legislation, introduced by Senator Kerry and Senator Boxer (D-CA), initially drew support from accross the aisle; as Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) came out in support of the effort. However, since then, the bill has garnered little bipartisan support; passing the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee without Rebuplican support on the panel and after a boycott of the mark-up. At present, it appears that Senator Kerry is trying to put together a compromise that will garner the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster; much the same tactic that is being employed by Majority Leader Reid in advancing a health-care overhaul.

Given that the Senate companion bill to the House Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) has been linked to the passage of health care reform, student aid reform remains on hold. Leaders on the Hill have indicated that both chambers will likely be in session until the third full week of December.