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University leaders lobby to stop across-the-board cuts

Deep spending cuts due to take effect in January as a result of budget sequestration are being opposed by the presidents and chancellors of 152 universities around the country.

Sequestration is a device built into last year’s Budget Control Act that would trigger across-the-board cuts in federal spending if Congress and the White House cannot agree on a plan to reduce the federal deficit.

Federal science agencies and others expect to see cuts of roughly 8 per cent under the sequestration stemming from the failure of the congressional ‘supercommittee’ to reach a federal debt-reduction agreement late last year.

In an 11 July letter to President Obama and congressional leaders, the academic heads urged them to prevent the sequestration by reaching “a major, balanced long-term” agreement that will cut budget deficits, rein in the nation’s debt, and spur the economy and job growth.

“Sequestration is an undiscerning and blunt budget tool that would substantially harm our nation’s future by blindly slashing valuable investments in education and scientific research, as well as other important discretionary programs that provide health, economic, and national security,” warned the letter, which was coordinated by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

The university leaders recommended a deficit reduction agreement that “seriously and thoughtfully” addresses entitlement programmes, which they identify as a primary source of long-term spending growth. Nevertheless, their letter argued that deficit reduction of the size required cannot be achieved by simply decreasing expenditures, and said substantial tax reform should also be part of the package.