Napolitano and UC chancellors write letter urging repeal of sequestration

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UC President Janet Napolitano and the 10 UC chancellors sent a letter to members of the California congressional delegation Thursday, urging them to work with Congress to repeal sequestration and advocate a federal budget that supports the university’s emphases on education, health care and research.

After Congress’ inability to reach an agreement on a federal budget and address the federal deficit last March, the government triggered $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester. Unless repealed, the cuts will extend through 2021, amounting to a reduction of $1.2 trillion in federal spending.

In the letter, the officials wrote that the sequester has already affected areas of the university such as research projects and will likely impact financial aid packages for students as well as the UC health care system. The letter comes at a time when Congress is negotiating a federal budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which began in October.

Napolitano and the chancellors urged the delegates to work with members of the House and Senate Budget Conference Committee to achieve these goals while emphasizing the university’s role as an “engine for economic growth and innovation for California and the nation.”

“As you know, unless Congress acts, sequestration will continue through 2021 having a severe impact on the University’s education and research enterprise,” the letter reads. “Sequestration, the government shutdown and the absence of a timely (fiscal year) 2014 budget have already created delays, reductions and, in some cases, termination of funding for grants in critical areas of scientific and technological research.”

The writers presented anecdotes of research projects halted due to lack or delay of funding, addressing students’ increasing financial insecurity as student-aid programs such as work-study are negatively impacted. They also underlined the importance of federal funding in supporting the UC health care system.

Sequestration has already affected UC Berkeley — before its implementation, the campus estimated it would lose about $49 million in federal funding for research. Some projects, such as research in Antarctica and construction at a joint UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory satellite campus, were delayed due to lack of federal funds.

Efforts to repeal sequestration and to facilitate a strong partnership with the government to protect these priorities have been ongoing, said UC spokesperson Chris Harrington. Numerous organizations, including the Association of American Universities and the American Council on Education, have written similar letters urging Congress to repeal sequestration and support higher education.

Spokespeople from UC Berkeley were not available for comment.

“We’re hopeful that the members of the congressional delegation will urge members of Congress to repeal sequestration,” Harrington said. “We also recognize that this is a difficult political climate. But we’re still pushing forward to repeal sequestration and protect these programs.”

Sophie Ho is the lead campus life reporter. Contact her at [email protected].