Higher Education Legislative Update: April 2, 2004
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 Higher Education Legislative Update

April 2, 2004

Money Matters
House and Senate Negotiations Stuck Over Paying for Tax Cuts

It's a matter of priorities: Do we support services critical to the American people, including education, or do we cap services to cut taxes further?

NEA is pressing hard for increased ESEA/NCLB, IDEA, and Higher Education funding and strongly opposes cuts that jeopardize children's health.

At issue: The spending plan for the 2005 budget year (Oct. 1, 2004-Sept. 30, 2005). The House and Senate each have a plan.

  • The Senate plan offers help to higher education, increasing the Pell Grant maximum from $4,050 to $4,500, eliminating the multi-year Pell Grant funding shortfall, and establishing a $5 billion reserve fund for the federal student loan program. The House plan offers no help to higher education.

  • The House plan could cut $2.2 billion from Medicaid, jeopardizing children's health.

  • Both plans shortchange ESEA/The No Child Left Behind Act and move IDEA farther from full funding of the federal share of costs.

  • The Logjam - Paying for Tax Cuts. Both plans demand that increases in spending be paid for - or 'offset' - by other spending cuts. The Senate demands that tax cuts, too, be paid for. Not the House.

The House would cap spending for services, but not for tax cuts that jeopardize programs for children and families, while increasing the national debt.

Higher education is largely a discretionary item in state budgets. As a result, it often takes a severe hit when state revenues shrivel up. NEA opposes a Budget Resolution or budget plan that would restrict access to higher education and shortchange federal education mandates, force cuts in Medicaid, and open the door to tax cuts that further decrease state revenue, exacerbating higher education's state funding problems.

Stay Tuned.

NEA Wins on Child Care

The NEA-supported bipartisan Snowe (R-ME)-Dodd (D-CT) Amendment to the TANF (Welfare) reauthorization bill sailed through the Senate this week in a landslide vote (78-20). This important amendment adds $6 billion in guaranteed funding for child care assistance to states over a period of five years.

Childcare is essential for individuals who need access to higher education in order to acquire new work skills. Currently, funding reaches only one of every seven eligible children.

The underlying bill, however, was subsequently put on hold.

The Overtime Battle Rages On

The NEA-Opposed Department of Labor (DOL) rule that would deny overtime pay to some 8 million workers takes effect shortly. The new rule can affect some higher education support professionals. NEA urged Senate support for the Harkin (IA) Amendment that would block these changes.

The Senate Leadership pulled an important trade bill last week, rather than allow Senators to vote on the Harkin Amendment. Sen. Harkin is keeping the issue on the front burner.

Five-Minute Activist: Urge your Members of Congress to support overtime rights.

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