‘Fiscal cliff’ would have serious consequences, says Wrighton

WUSTL chancellor urges congressional delegation to avoid sequestration

Washington University in St. Louis Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton has written the Missouri congressional delegation to express continued concerns about the serious negative impact that sequestration, expiring tax provisions, and other elements of the “fiscal cliff” could have on the mission of higher education and the nation as a whole.

The full text of his letter, sent Nov. 19 to Missouri’s top political leadership, is provided below:


I write again to express my continued concern about how upcoming decisions regarding sequestration, expiring tax provisions, and other elements of the “fiscal cliff” could impact our nation’s ability to educate the next generation of students, to provide life-saving cures and treatments to those in need, and to conduct the groundbreaking research necessary to maintain the nation’s continued leadership in science, scholarship, and innovation.

In July of this year I joined with over 150 presidents and chancellors from across the nation to urge the President and congressional leadership to forge a “major, balanced long-term deficit-reduction agreement that will reduce budget deficits, rein in the nation’s debt, and create economic and job growth to ensure our nation’s long-term fiscal health and to prevent the indiscriminate cuts of sequestration.” Since that letter, the Office of Management and Budget has projected that the impact of sequestration in FY13 to research at the National Institutes of Health would be $2.5 billion; the National Science Foundation would see a decrease of $586 million; the Department of Energy Office of Science would be reduced by $400 million; and NASA Science would lose $417 million in funding.

While Pell Grants are protected during FY13, other federal financial aid programs — like federal work-study, college access programs, and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program — would be cut 8.2 percent, which could impact the ability of students to attend college.

In addition, the most recent patch to the Medicare physician fee schedule is set to expire at the end of this year. This 26.5 percent reduction in physician reimbursement, mandated by the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, will impact the ability of doctors and hospitals, such as the Washington University Physicians and our partners at BJC HealthCare, to continue to provide some of the best medical care in the nation to the St. Louis region and throughout the state of Missouri.

While it is important to take a comprehensive approach to addressing this fiscal morass, it is vital that any solution protect those core investments and tax provisions that help educate students, provide quality healthcare, and promote research and development — all of which enable enhanced national security, increased entrepreneurship and private investment, and economic competitiveness.

I trust that during these difficult and important deliberations, you will keep in mind these long-term investments in the future of our country.