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The federal budget deal taking shape in Washington will be kinder and gentler on the University's balance sheets than earlier proposals, Senior Vice President Marna Whittington said yesterday. Whittington said yesterday that as of Wednesday, "things looked reasonably good for us." Earlier this month, David Morse, who oversees University federal relations, called the federal budget negotiations a "lose, less-lose situation" for the University, saying that the best the school could hope for was small cuts in federal funding. Morse was in Washington yesterday monitoring the budget negotiations and could not be reached for comment. "As of [Wednesday], the student aid looked good," Whittington said. The National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation -- two big sources of research funding for the University -- are both expected to get increased budgets under the plan, Whittington added. The proposed federal budget deal still includes $47 billion in cuts for Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors over the next five years, but Whittington said that such a cut has already been figured into the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania's operating budget. The federal budget process is almost a month behind schedule due to bickering between Congress and President Bush over the size and shape of tax increases. Whittington said that the University adopted a business-as-usual attitude toward the budget deadlock in Washington and did not panic or anticipate huge cuts in federal funding for the University. "Our goal here, in the face of uncertainty, was to maintain the momentum of the academic and research enterprises," Whittington said. "We decided really early on that to assume a crisis mentality about this would not be constructive. It just so happens that if the package that's on the table now is passed, that was the right strategy. Given what could have happened I think it's good news." The University has had at least one representative in Washington almost every day over the last month, Whittington said. The officials have let Congressional leaders and local senators and representatives know where the University stands on the various budget issues, she added. "We are all feeling a little discouraged with the process we've been through to get this package," Whittington said. "We're concerned that ultimately we get a budget package that is well thought out and is good policy for the country. This hasn't been the finest moment in American politics."

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