From Taxes to Spending Cuts – Science Funding Remains On The Chopping Block

By Melinda T. Hough, PhD, Director of Public Relations.

Washington D.C. – In a last ditch effort to avoid catastrophic tax increases and prevent the United States from going over the fiscal cliff, Congressional leaders came together on January 1, 2013 to pass The American Tax Relief Act of 2012 details of which can be found here. According to the OMB, the bill raises approximately $620 billion in revenues and saves more than $100 billion in federal interest payments. Widely heralded as a bipartisan step towards solving some of America’s fiscal problems, the act ONLY addressed tax rates effectively bumping the discussion on spending cuts to March 1st.

The 113th Congress was sworn into office two days later and discussions have turned to addressing the cuts soon to be imposed by The Budget Control Act of 2011, also known as the sequester. All federal spending, both discretionary (including science funding for agencies such as NIH, NSF, NASA, and others) as well as non-discretionary (including defense and many social programs) will be subjected to an across the board 8-10% cut for FY13. These cuts will have devastating consequences for research funding. At NSF, for example, these cuts would account for $523 million or the total spent on all undergraduate educational support programs in FY11 including training scholarships and new research opportunities. At NIH, Francis Collins predicts that would mean 2,300 fewer grants would be funded.

The American Tax Relief Act of 2012 has delayed sequestration by two months. According to Matthew Hourihan, Director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at AAAS, “The Administration and Congress will have discretion in allocating this new round of cuts, rather than the across-the-board approach taken by the sequester – which leaves open the possibility that they’ll prioritize science and innovation funding.”

In his remarks on the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, President Obama said, “We can’t simply cut our way to prosperity… And we can’t keep cutting things like basic research and new technology and still expect to succeed in a 21st century economy.” The entire transcript can be read here.

We have TWO MONTHS to get our voices heard. Now, more than ever we need your help as the scientists of the future to help prevent the proposed cuts to research budgets and the stifling of budding careers. Reach out to everyone you know and explain the work that you do and that it is federally funded. Call your congressional representatives and urge them to save the strongest economic engine this country has seen since the end of World War II, the scientific enterprise. Tweet. Facebook. Hold a sign. Call a local radio station. Get out the message that you believe we must invest in a stronger future built on the cutting edge research we, as the future scientists of America, are doing.

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