Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

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

Friday, April 15, 2011

Federal Update for Friday, April 15

Budget Resolution for FY 2012
Today, the U. S. House of Representatives passed H Con Res 34, the Budget Resolution for FY 2012, which House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) introduced last week.

Overall, the resolution calls for total spending of $3.53 trillion in FY 2012, $179 billion less than requested by the Obama administration. The resolution calls for non-defense discretionary budget authority of $360 billion in FY 2012, which is $105 billion less than the President's request. It cuts $6 trillion over 10 years of federal spending.

The resolution would also:  
  • Restructure the Medicare and Medicaid programs. For Medicare, it alters the funding structure from the current "fee-for-service" model to a model where future beneficiaries would receive a subsidy to purchase a qualified private health insurance plan rather than being directly covered by the government.  The funding structure of Medicaid is changed to a block grant program to states instead of the current structure which is a joint state-federal matching program.
  • Bring non-security discretionary spending to below 2008 levels.
  • Extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.
  • Extend the current estate tax rates, providing a 20% deduction to small business and authorizing trade agreements, among others.
  • Reduce the top individual and corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%, offset by eliminating some corporate and individual tax deductions.
  • Establish a binding cap on total spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) and require any increase in debt levels to be accompanied by spending reductions.
  • Assume defense spending increases over the next 10 years.
  • Continue the current earmark ban.
In terms of higher education priorities, it recommends changes to student aid and cuts to research.

For Pell Grant Program:
The accompanying report states, "Pell Grants are the perfect example of promises that cannot be kept."  It advocates returning Pell grants to pre-stimulus levels and making a number of changes to Pell to make it more sustainable. These changes proposed changes include:
  • Ending the year-round Pell.
  • Setting  stricter lifetime limits from the current 18 semesters (9 years) to a recommended limit of 12 semesters (6 years), or their equivalents for part-time students.
  • Rolling back certain recent expansions to the need analysis to ensure aid is "targeted to the truly needy," potentially by altering the level at which a student qualifies for an automatic zero 'Expected Family Contribution' [EFC] and the income protection allowance to pre-College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 levels.
  • Eliminating administrative fees, $5 per grant, paid to participating institutions. "Schools already benefit significantly from the Pell program because the aid makes attendance at those schools more affordable."
  • Considering including a maximum income cap.
  • Eliminating eligibility for less-than-half-time students. "Funding should be reserved for students with a larger commitment to their education."
  • Terminating eligibility for those who currently receive the minimum award. As the minimum Pell award of $278 "is unlikely to have much, if any, impact."
  • Adopting a sustainable maximum award level, noting that recent program growth can be attributed to the $619 increase in the maximum award that came from the stimulus bill.
For Scientific Research:
For Function 250, the function that funds general science, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), general science programs of the Energy Department, and the non-aviation programs at the NASA, the resolution calls for $27.3 billion in budget authority in FY 2012.  The resolution projects gradually increasing levels of discretionary funding for these programs, reaching $30.3 billion in FY 2021.

In Function 550, the health-sciences related function, the report does not specifically reference cuts to the National Institutes of Health, but assumes the discretionary spending levels will be the baseline proposed by H.R. 1, which will "reduce aggregate spending for the Department of Health and Human Services."


For Function 500 (Education), in addition to the Pell grant changes, the report recommends that "the committees of jurisdiction address the duplication between the 82 programs that are designed to improve teacher quality."  The report offers illustrations of proposals that could save money:
Sexual Assault Guidance
Last week, Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan introduced comprehensive guidance to help schools, colleges, and universities better understand their obligations, under federal civil rights laws, to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault.  The guidance makes clear the obligations under Title IX of any educational institution receiving federal aid to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence.  It also provides practical examples to aid educators in ensuring the safety of their students.  Go to:  (Note: Related resources include a fact sheet [] and a "Know Your Rights" two-pager [].)

Student Privacy
This week, the Department announced a series of initiatives to safeguard student privacy while also clarifying that states have the flexibility to share school data that are necessary to judge the effectiveness of government investments in education.  
  • Chief Privacy Officer Kathleen Styles joins the Department, and she will coordinate technical assistance efforts for states, districts, and other stakeholders, helping them understand important privacy issues.
  • The Privacy Technical Assistance Center has been established in the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), to serve as a one-stop resource for the P-20 community on privacy, confidentiality, and data security. 
  • Technical Briefs Featuring Best Practices of data security and privacy protections have already been released and are posted at
In addition, the Department has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) under FERPA:  The public has until May 23 to submit written comments at