3 July 2019

Protecting Science at the State and Federal Level

Posted by Chris McEntee

News coming out of Alaska right now reminds me how strongly science depends not just on federal but also state financial support. And it’s disheartening to hear that this crucial science funding is facing challenges at all levels. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy recently vetoed the state’s budget, which would mean huge cuts for the state – including a $130 million—or 41 percent—cut to the University of Alaska system’s funding from the state. The university has said they would need to shutter buildings, accept 3,000 fewer students and lay off anywhere from 700-1,300 staff and faculty. Such drastic cuts would not spare the system’s cutting edge atmospheric, geoscience, geophysics, natural resource, and oceanography research programs, or the hundreds of AGU members based in Alaska.

At the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives is very close to completing its work on the Fiscal Year 2020 spending bills, including those that fund the federal science agencies conducting and supporting Earth and space science research. So far, those numbers are fairly strong. At the NSF, USGS, NOAA, NASA, DOE, EPA, and NIEHS, the proposed spending levels are up by nearly or more than AGU’s recommended increases.

That said, the U.S. Senate has not yet begun their work on the FY2020 spending bills. They have been waiting for the Administration to make a deal with Congress on the overall budget levels, and prospects for such an agreement are poor. Current budget law places draconian caps on spending levels overall, and if no agreement is reached, would mean severe cuts to science.

Whether at the state or federal level, AGU believes science is essential for the health and well-being of humanity, and has long been a champion of robust funding for science. Scientific research encourages economic growth, increases the safety and security of our nation, and advances our understanding of the world around us. That’s why we’re calling for a strong federal budget agreement that lifts the caps and allows for sustained growth in science funding.

And that’s also why we’re standing with the employees and scientists of the University of Alaska who will be impacted by the state’s budget cuts. The Alaska state legislature has the opportunity in the next two weeks to override the governor’s devastating veto of the state’s budget.

AGU is encouraging our members in Alaska to reach out to their state legislators now.

The University of Alaska has resources to help with this outreach, including key messages and state legislator contact information. We also request that our members include a message about the critical value and importance of supporting scientific research in Alaska and through the university system. Please consider including the following message in your outreach to Alaska state legislators:

Science is essential for our country’s safety, security, and economy. I urge you to override the governor’s veto to ensure robust funding for science and research conducted through the University of Alaska system.

By standing together and speaking out we can help protect funding for Earth and space science in Alaska and across the country.