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Vol.25, No. 18 Mar. 31, 2000

With Some Bills Passed, Budget Process Continues

By Ellen S. Smith

Federal and state negotiators are progressing on their budgets, although the state is unlikely to meet its April 1, 2000 deadline. In addition, there are a number of other bills that are progressing slowly through the Federal legislature, including some tax bills.

The tuition assistance plan, (TAP), has been raised to a maximum of $5,000 for undergraduates in State Assembly and Senate budgets. Final negotiations may result in the new maximum.

Graduate TAP has not fared as well. So far, there is no increase for graduate students. President George Rupp spoke about the importance of undergraduate and graduate TAP to legislators during a trip a few weeks ago. The student lobby trip in February also focused on both of these areas.

At the Federal level, House and Senate members are working on their non-binding budget resolutions. To date, the House narrowly passed its resolution. Debt reduction will be the major goal for use of surpluses.

The House specifically noted the importance of science by recommending that National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding increase by the same amount as President Clinton recommended ($1 billion); at the same time, the House recommended that the National Science Foundation (NSF) increase by $100 million in honor of its 50th year.

The NSF increase recommended is significantly below Clinton's request.

The Senate has not been able to reach an agreement. When it does, appropriations committees will begin annual funding deliberations. Because this is an election year, the appropriations bills will likely be finished close to October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Other federal issues:

All college students are asked to fill in census forms at their schools. These forms help with counts for the amount of student aid that will be available.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed a tax bill last week that includes important education provisions, but will most likely be vetoed because it extends educational spending accounts to K-12 education. Other provisions include increases in deductibility of student loan interest, but no graduate employer-provided educational assistance.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has announced that it will reach the H-1-B visa cap shortly. Thus, visiting international scholars to universities may again be affected. At this stage, it is uncertain whether the House and Senate will pass changes to immigration bills, but current bills being considered provide special provisions for university H-1-B visas.

Congressman Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) is asking Members of Congress to sign a letter to the appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) urging the highest levels of funding for scientific research.

In the health care arena, the Association of American Medical Colleges has launched a Web site to encourage members to contact Congress about three areas: funding for NIH; funding for health professions; and relief for hospitals from the balanced budget act (www. contactcongress.aamc.org).

For additional information, please contact Ellen S. Smith, assistant vice president and director of Federal Relations at ess9@columbia.edu.