The University Record, February 18, 2002

Short legislative year expected

By Mike Waring
U-M Washington, D.C., Office

With the President’s budget unveiled Feb. 4, Congress began its trek toward a fall adjournment and the upcoming 2002 congressional elections.

The schedule calls for numerous breaks to allow lawmakers to return home to campaign, meaning that few major issues will be able to work their way through the legislative process. Still, it is anticipated that several issues of interest to U-M and higher education in general will get attention this year. They include:

  • Research funding: The president’s 2003 proposed budget included a 17 percent increase for National Institutes of Health, along with a 5 percent boost for the National Science Foundation and eight percent for NASA’s Science, Aeronautics and Technology programs. Other research areas are lower, but will likely see Congress increase their funding.

  • Higher Education reauthorization: While the actual legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act won’t be written until next year, preparations and hearings are likely as the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction begin thinking about that process. The Higher Education Act is reauthorized by Congress every five years.

  • Tax provisions: The White House and Senate leaders announced last week agreement on two tax provisions of benefit to universities. One would allow contributions from IRAs to charities or other non-profits tax-free once a taxpayer hits 67 years of age. Another provision would allow taxpayers who do not itemize deductions to write off some of their charitable donations. These were included in the ‘faith-based initiatives’ legislation, which appears now to have a chance of passage.

  • Anti-terrorism legislation: It is expected that Congress will continue to look for ways to fund research and to set up new procedures for better monitoring of foreign students and for work being done with biological toxins.

    The 2003 budget that President George W. Bush presented to Congress initiates the appropriations process on Capitol Hill. However, many observers in Washington believe squaring the budget views of the republican-controlled House and the democratic-controlled Senate during this election year will be extremely difficult. Ultimately, negotiations between the White House and democratic leaders may be needed to resolve spending decisions and complete the business of the 107th Congress by early to mid-October.