For Penn, millions of dollars are potentially at risk with the change in political power in Harrisburg, Pa., and Washington, D.C., next year.
On the state level, Assistant Vice President for Commonwealth Relations Paul Cribbins said, “it is difficult to predict” what Republicans like Governor-elect Tom Corbett will want to cut.
Cribbins added that the University has historically received “good support from Republican legislators,” arguing that they view the School of Veterinary Medicine “as a real benefit to the economy.”
Noting that higher-education funding is typically allocated as nonpreferred appropriations — a funding category easier for the legislature to cut, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Sharon Ward explained that education appropriations will be on the chopping block next year.
“The gap is so great that it is a natural place to look,” Ward said, referring to a sizeable expected budget shortfall in the state.
According to Cribbins, the potential gap could reach three to four billion dollars next year. Unlike the federal government, states are prohibited from running budget deficits, meaning any potential gap would require a boost in revenue, spending cuts or both.
State funding allocated to Penn has been steadily declining over the past few years. In September, funding for the School of Veterinary Medicine was reduced by $498,000, down from an original amount of $30.5 million, according to Vice President for Budget and Management Analysis Bonnie Gibson.
“What’s more important than these fairly modest cuts are the reductions that have taken place over the last three years,” Gibson wrote in an e-mail. After several midyear cuts in 2009, the school received $12 million less than it received in 2007. “The loss of $12 [million] in funding required the School to make substantial cuts in staffing and services,” she added.
There is similar cause for concern on the national level, though the next fiscal year’s budget has not been decided.
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the political lay of the land is going to be next year,” Penn’s Associate Vice President of Federal Affairs Bill Andresen said.
“You have a huge freshman class of members who are coming into town saying they’ve been empowered to cut federal spending,” he said, referring to the sizable number of Republicans that will join the House of Representatives next year.
Andresen also pointed out that House Republicans’ “Pledge to America” proposal would roll back spending to pre-President Barack Obama levels. Grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, of which Penn is a top recipient, would decrease by 9 percent, Andresen explained.
Andresen also outlined two options Congress has in shaping the budget. Legislators can pass an omnibus appropriations bill — which would “roll all the spending bills for all federal agencies” into one. “If they do that, they can increase or decrease funding levels for various federal agencies … and do pretty much anything they want to do,” Andresen said.
The second option, he added, is a continuing resolution, which would fund the government at current levels. Although there is an effort in the Senate to draft an omnibus bill, Andresen said that its success remains uncertain. It is “not so clear right now what they’re going to do,” he explained.
Andresen added that the leading opponents of NIH spending include senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona. “There’s going to be a lot of downward pressure on federal spending next year, so we’re going to have to work hard,” he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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