Sequestration cuts could affect UC research funds



Automatic national budget cuts are set to take effect March 1 and will last until September. The cuts — which will reportedly slash $177 million in funding for scientific research in the state of California — are creating a stir in the UC system whose scientific research heavily depends on federal funding.

In 2011, President Obama and Congress agreed to the cuts in hopes that the threat of a budget ax would result in a compromise to lower the deficit. The plan has been ineffective as no compromise has yet been made on Capitol Hill. As a result, the cuts are set to fall this March.

The University of California has suffered from severe budget cuts as of late. In the past five years, the UC system has had to deal with $900 million worth of cuts on the state level. According to the latest data from UC Office of the President (UCOP), there was a 22 percent drop in federal funds awarded to UC as compared to the same period in the previous year, totaling $320 million worth of cuts.

As indicated by UCOP, UC researchers are among the country’s leading recipients of federal funding from research agencies. The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, NASA, USDA and the National Institutes of Health are just a few of the research agencies that will be subject to the cuts. According to the UCOP, if the cuts take effect, it will “disrupt  UC researchers’ ability to contribute scientific discoveries and innovations, reduce support for graduate and postdoctoral students, and damage job creation and economic recovery in our state and nation.”

Chris Harrington, associate director of the UC Office of Federal Governmental Relations, spoke with the Highlander and voiced his opinion of the possible sequestration.  “UC opposes sequestration and is urging Congress and the Administration to reach an agreement to avoid the devastating impact that sequestration would have on UC students, our scientific research, health care and the economy,” he said.

Prior to those cuts, funding for research was on the rise. In 2010, UC Riverside brought in a record $115 million in research funding. That figure was a 27 percent increase from the previous year.

To negate the sequestration cuts, however, plans have been made to restore funds to the UC system.

On Jan. 10, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a plan to restore $256.5 million to the university’s state funding. In order for the plan to take effect, state legislature will  first have to agree upon it.

On Nov. 2012, the University of California Board of Regents endorsed Proposition 30 in hopes of temporarily halting budget cuts to the UC system. Had the proposition failed, UC was scheduled to receive a budget cut of $250 million in 2013 and lose an additional $125 million next year.

The automatic cuts will also affect various programs around the nation. Those programs include preschools, national parks, housing assistance and the nation’s defense department, which will take half of the total amount in reductions. The total amount is an estimated  $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

In hopes of postponing the budget ax, Senate Democrats proposed a $100 billion tax increase and spending cuts on Feb. 14. Their plan would only postpone the sequester until Jan. 2014 when a more comprehensive deficit reduction deal is agreed upon.


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