The University Record, October 19, 1992

1991-92 federal legislative session 'disappointing'

By Laurie Fenlason
Office of University Relations

U-M Washington office director Thomas E. Butts last week described the 1991--92 federal legislative session as "one of the most difficult years ever" to secure funding for discretionary programs. He noted that efforts to shift defense spending to domestic programs failed repeatedly, and predicted that researchers, students and others in the University community may be "disappointed" by the overall funding levels for agencies such as National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and programs such as Pell Grants and other student aid programs.

Highlights of the FY 1993 appropriations:

---Congress approved funding for construction of an eight-story clinical addition ($97 million) and a parking facility ($8.6 million) at the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), part of a massive $157.5 million renovation of the VAMC complex. The clinical addition will enable the VAMC to minimize hospital visits in favor of outpatient care.

"With this appropriation, we can now be assured of proceeding with the [renovation] project," said Rick Bossard, government relations officer for the Medical Center. "It will give us the opportunity to treat veterans, train medical students and conduct research in a state-of-the-art facility."

---Research and development activities within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received $323 million, a .65 percent increase from FY 1992. This figure includes a $500,000 increase in funding for global warming research and mitigation. The bill also precludes EPA from reducing funding for Hazardous Substances Research Centers, including the one on the Ann Arbor campus.

---Through various agencies, Congress appropriated $31 million for the Consortium for International Earth Sciences Information Network (CIESIN), a non-profit environmental and global change research corporation comprised of the U of M, Michigan State University, Saginaw Valley State University, the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, New York Polytechnic University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. NASA funds also will support construction of a $42 million CIESIN research and administration building in Saginaw.

---NSF funding totaled $2.7 billion, an increase of 6.3 percent over FY 1992. Of this total, $1.8 billion is directed for research, which is $13 million or 6.5 percent below FY 1992. In addition, NSF was appropriated $50 million to help universities upgrade research facilities and instruments. In the Education and Human Resources portion of the overall budget, $23 million was appropriated to continue the Foundation's graduate traineeship program.

Calling a reduction in NSF support for research "certainly a major disappointment and a cause for concern," Robert J. Samors said it will be important to watch how funds are allocated by NSF, "especially given the current pressures on the foundation to develop closer ties to industry and to contribute more directly to national competitiveness initiatives." Samors is the University's government relations officer for research.

---Discretionary programs within the Department of Education, which include student aid, international education and graduate fellowships, received an increase of about 3 percent over FY 1992, a gain that trailed the inflation rate and failed to meet President Bush's budget request.

Although the Higher Education Act authorized an increase in the maximum Pell Grant to $3,700, the maximum was cut from $2,400 to $2,300 for 1993--94 in order to recoup part of a $1.46 million shortfall in last year's spending. Supplemental educational opportunity grants and federal work-study programs received slightly increased funding, as did international education programs and programs for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Funding for libraries and graduate fellowship programs was slightly reduced.

---Congress also completed action on a tax bill containing several important provisions for higher education, although it is not clear at this writing whether---or when---the tax bill will receive White House approval. If enacted by the president, the pending tax legislation would repeal the current alternative minimum tax for gifts of appreciated property such as land, stock and paintings.

Butts noted that this provision, which is expected to encourage contributions to charities, would provide a great boost to the U-M, particularly in light of The Campaign for Michigan.

The tax bill also would extend employer-provided educational assistance (Sec. 127) for 10 months as well as tax credits for businesses that invest in research and development. The bill also would provide penalty-free withdrawals from IRAs to cover higher education expenses and would expand the Series E savings bond program to enable investors to use the proceeds for higher education without paying taxes on the interest earned. Further, all income eligibility standards to qualify for the tax exclusions were eliminated.

Unfortunately, Butts noted, a provision in the Senate bill to restore the full deductibility of scholarships in federal income taxes was dropped in conference negotiations but is expected to be revisited next year.

(sidebar)

The "Michigan community" in Washington, led by members of the Michigan Congressional delegation and including the U-M Washington office and representatives from 15 Michigan corporations, hosted a farewell reception Oct. 1 for seven members of the Michigan Congressional delegation who will retire in December, including eight-term Ann Arbor Congressman Carl D. Pursell.

Other retiring Members are William S. Broomfield, R-Birmingham; Robert W. Davis, R-Marquette; Dennis M. Hertel, D-Detroit; Bob Traxler, D-Saginaw; Guy Vander Jagt, R-Muskegon; and Howard Wolpe, D-Lansing.

The retiring members have 238 years of seniority among them, according to Butts, and have chaired committees and subcommittees on issues including appropriations; ways and means; and science, space and technology.

Two of Michigan's 18 congressional seats will not be replaced in the 103rd Congress due to realignment of voting districts to reflect shifts in population.