Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Federal Update for January 31, 2011

The House will not meet again until Tuesday, February 8.  The Senate returned to session on Monday, January 31.  Anticipated legislation includes the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill (S. 223) and a four-month extension of the authorization for small business programs.

President Obama said in his State of the Union address on January 25 that Washington must reduce federal spending, but also must strengthen the federal investment in innovation, education, and infrastructure in order to enable the U.S. to "out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."  He expressed these views while, at the same time, said his FY12 budget would propose freezing overall domestic discretionary spending for the next five years, and that he would veto bills that included earmarks.  The President's budget is scheduled for release on February 14.

Regarding new investments, the President said his Administration would support continued investment in scientific research, particularly "biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology."  He also called for preparing 100,000 new teachers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields over the next 10 years; urged Congress to make the tuition tax credit permanent; and expressed strong support for immigration reform that would enable talented young people—both undocumented long-term residents and students from other nations—to study and remain in the United States.  He also encouraged colleges to open their doors to military recruiters and ROTC.  

U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) provided the congressional response to the President's speech.  Ryan's speech set a tone of urgency about the groundwork necessary to reduce spending and debt.  Adding force to the debate is the latest set of numbers from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), including a $1.5 trillion deficit in the current fiscal year, cumulative deficits of $7 trillion to $12 trillion over the next decade, and the prospect that the nation's debt could equal a year's economic activity.

Ryan said, "The President and the Democratic leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.  Whether sold as 'stimulus' or repackaged as 'investment,' their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much."  He added, "Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked – and it won't work now. We need to chart a new course….We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative – not political clout – determines who succeeds."

The Republican Study Committee, which represents nearly three-fourths of all House Republicans, introduced the "Spending Reduction Act," which aims to cut $2.5 trillion in government spending over the next decade.  Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate.  Among $330 billion worth of program cuts, programs which benefit Wisconsin, include:  The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities; the Economic Development Administration, which funds university centers throughout the country and in Wisconsin; applied research sponsored by the Department of Energy; the Technology Innovation Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnerships; Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and programs under the National and Community Services Act.

(AAU and the UWSA Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)