Congress passes stopgap funding measure; Oregon higher ed leaders urge Congress to avoid fiscal cliff

University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson joined the Chancellor of the Oregon University System George Pernsteiner and the presidents of OUS’ six other campuses in signing a letterto Oregon’s congressional delegation urging them to do everything they can to avoid sequestration. The letter comes as Congress is set to consider a stop-gap continuing resolution to fund the government through March 27,2013.

Congress approved a six-month continuing resolution (CR) to delay FY2013 spending decisions until next year and free up time for legislators to deal with expiring tax cuts and the budget sequester. The goal of the CR is to avert a government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins October 1, 2012. The CR funds federal programs at roughly FY12 levels through March 27, 2013 or until Congress takes further action on the FY13 budget.

The failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction on Nov. 23, 2011 to produce a bill identifying budgetary savings of at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years has triggered an automatic spending reduction process known as sequestration that will take effect on January 2, 2013, as stipulated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. If sequestration occurs, the Oregon University System expects the loss of approximately $33.2 million in federal funds for federally funded research, student aid, and other programs carried out by its campuses. The estimated $33.2 million in reductions would include 8.4 to 9.5 percent decreases to federal funding anticipated  from agencies that include the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health,, Department of Energy,  NASA, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education (both research and student aid programs like Pell, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Work-Study), as well as reductions in other federal grants and appropriations, and the possibility of increased student loan processing fees for students and families receiving Stafford and PLUS loans. The impact of these sizable cuts would postpone, reduce, and in some cases halt important advancements in competitive research endeavors.

This month the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a report estimating the sequester’s impact to be 8.2 percent across-the-board spending cuts in all non-exempt, nondefense discretionary spending. Additionally, defense-funded research and development will experience cuts of 9.4 percent. These cuts will occur if Congress cannot determine an alternative to the sequester before January 2, 2013, such as delaying the cuts or replacing them with targeted cuts to specific program areas.