As House and Senate budget leaders begin crafting the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, three major national higher education organizations whose membership comprises all the major public and private universities in the United States urged those leaders to promote long-term economic growth by repealing sequestration and placing a high priority on scientific research and higher education investments.
In a letter sent on Friday, February 27 to House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the presidents of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the American Council on Education (ACE) said that restoring funding for scientific research and higher education would help address the nation’s innovation deficit.
“While the federal government’s spending in these areas has stagnated in recent years, our global competitors have dramatically increased their investments,” they wrote. “This disparity is creating an innovation deficit that, if not addressed, will soon force us to surrender America’s position as the global innovation leader. The budget resolution provides an important opportunity to put our country on a path to closing the innovation deficit by reducing the gap between actual and needed federal investments in scientific research and higher education.”
The higher education leaders – APLU President Peter McPherson, AAU President Hunter Rawlings, and ACE President Molly Corbett Broad – noted that current law, which includes sequestration, would hold FY2016 discretionary spending caps essentially at their FY2015 levels, which represents a real cut in purchasing power due to inflation. With sequestration in place, defense discretionary funding would be $38 billion below what it would otherwise be under the Budget Control Act caps and non-defense discretionary would be $37 billion less. To address the country’s broader budget issues, the leaders strongly urged the lawmakers to construct a budget resolution that outlines a path for comprehensive tax reform and provides for meaningful entitlement reform.
“The discretionary portion of the budget – the primary source of federal investments in scientific research and higher education – receives less than one-third of total federal dollars, and this share continues to shrink year after year,” they wrote. “This steady constriction of the budget that funds our country’s investments is already undermining our nation’s future.”
They continued, “We urge you to rethink our nation’s budget priorities. The solution to our continuing budget deficits lies not in discretionary spending cuts but in reforms to mandatory spending and taxation…Investments in higher education and research are proven drivers of economic growth. They are vital for the development of new technologies, processes, and a workforce that will advance our national security, our energy self-sufficiency, and our citizens’ health.”
Economists agree that more than half of U.S. economic growth since World War II is a consequence of technological innovation, much of which results from federally funded scientific research conducted at U.S. universities. Such groundbreaking research, the university leaders noted, has led to life-saving vaccines, lasers, MRI, touchscreens, GPS, the Internet, and many other advances that have improved lives and generated entire new sectors of our economy.
The letter to the leaders of the budget committees, as well as additional information, can be found at www.innovationdeficit.org.