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Congress loosens up '03 federal funds

Recent action by Congress to pass the remaining 11 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2003 has allowed agencies to move forward with their budget activities for the rest of the year.

Last fall, Congress was able to pass only the defense and military construction bills, leaving funding for all other federal agencies on a continuing flat-level basis. When the new Congress convened in January, some feared the inaction on those appropriations would be made permanent. However, in mid-February, Congress and the White House finali• ed the remaining legislation in an omnibus bill that passed Feb. 13.

Among the highlights for higher education:

• Funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) will increase by 11.6 percent. This is in excess of what the president had proposed and reflects the strong bipartisan support for NSF in Congress

• Increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, which will complete the five-year commitment to double research dollars for medical research

• Smaller increases for research at the departments of Energy and Defense

• The maximum Pell Grant will be $4,050, up from $4,000 last year.

With 2003 funding now complete, Congress has turned its attention to the 2004 budget proposed by President Bush in early February. That budget has a 4 percent increase in discretionary spending, which reflects the sluggish economy and the increased costs of homeland security. Congress now will work its will on the budget as appropriations hearings are held. Research accounts generally saw small increases, but Congress ultimately will make the final decisions later this year.

For more details on the budget or specific programs at U-M, contact the Washington office at (202) 554-0578, mwaring@umich.edu or bankc@umich.edu.

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