UO leadership urges policymakers to avoid budget sequestration

University of Oregon Interim President Bob Berdahl, along with a group of more than 150 university presidents and chancellors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, sent a letter to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders on July 11 urging them to avoid a year-end budget sequestration and forge a balanced, long-term deficit-reduction agreement.

The failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to produce a bill identifying budgetary savings of at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years by November 23, 2011 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. Budgets will be cut evenly between the Department of Defense and nondefense spending. This will include important federal student aid programs and research funding. 

The letter, spearheaded by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, warns that sequestration “would substantially harm our nation’s future by blindly slashing valuable investments in education and scientific research, as well as other important discretionary programs that provide health, economic, and national security.” It calls on policymakers to find an agreement that will “reduce budget deficits, rein in the nation’s debt, and create economic and job growth to ensure our nation’s long-term fiscal health and to prevent the indiscriminate cuts of sequestration.”

Oregon members Congress Peter DeFazio (D) and Suzanne Bonamici (D) joined other lawmakers in signing onto a letter expressing concern over “draconian cuts to important domestic programs” that would result from the scheduled across-the-board cuts under sequestration. The letter also made clear that they would not support any budget deal that sought to make cuts only in domestic discretionary programs, avoiding any cuts to the defense budget.

Before adjourning for the August work period, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that the House Republicans and Senate Democrats agreed to a six month continuing resolution (CR) to start FY 2013, which begins October 1. Details of the CR were not stated but the announcement indicates that the CR will be “consistent with the spending cap level in the Budget Control Act.” The agreement on a CR will, if finalized and passed, keep the federal government operating and allow congressional leadership to focus on action needed to prevent sequestration.