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Advocacy and Action

Uncertain Outlook as Trump’s Priorities Emerge

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As the Trump administration implements new policies and floats new proposals, colleges and universities are closely watching to see how these changes will impact their institutions. There are growing concerns about what it will mean for higher education.

 The Department of Health and Human Services proposes slashing indirect cost payments. Explaining, during a hearing in April, how the Trump administration could cut $5.8 billion from the FY18 budget for the National Institutes of Health, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price told lawmakers that payments for overhead could be trimmed in an effort to get a “bigger bang for our buck.”

Lawmakers will review this proposal, together with the entire Trump blueprint, with the objective of having a spending agreement in place by October 1—the start of the new fiscal year. The president’s plan is just that—a plan or suggestion that does not have the force of law or the House and Senate authority to develop and adopt the final budget. Several lawmakers were dubious of the indirect cost proposal.

 Stakeholders act to reserve tax-exempt bonds. In April, NACUBO was one of 53 organizations that sent a letter to tax writers on Capitol Hill calling on them to protect the tax exemption for municipal bonds. The letter stated, “The municipal bond tax exemption has a long history of success, having been maintained through two world wars and the Great Depression, as well as the recent Great Recession, and it continues to finance the majority of our nation’s infrastructure needs for state and local governments of all sizes. We cannot afford to abandon the great success of this important financing instrument.”

In February, NACUBO was also one of 375 organizations that weighed in to express concern about potential limitations of—or changes to— tax-exempt bonds in ongoing tax reform efforts; such changes could be seen as a revenue generating measure to fund other elements of tax reform.

The letter, organized by the Municipal Bonds for America coalition, stated, “The municipal market and tax-exempt municipal bonds are the backbone of state and local government finance and key components in a vibrant federal economy.” It continued, “A reduction or elimination for municipal bonds could raise infrastructure costs by 10 to 12 percent.”

NACUBO will continue to closely monitor any proposal that changes the treatment of tax-exempt bond financing.

 Administration slows processing of H-1B visa petitions. The Trump administration has placed a temporary hold on expedited applications for H-1B visas, according to a March 3 announcement by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Beginning April 3, USCIS suspended “premium processing”—the procedure enabling applicants to obtain visa approvals, as quickly as within 15 days—for a period up to six months.

H-1B visas enable a foreign national to work in the U.S. for a temporary period and are available, generally, to employees in specialty occupations that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience. A person may hold H-1B status for a maximum of six years, issued in increments of up to three years by the USCIS.

According to the USCIS, the temporary suspension of the H-1B premium processing program will enable the agency to address a backlog of pending petitions and prioritize resolution of petitions for extensions that are nearing the 240-day mark.

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may be eligible to request an expedited approval of their H-1B petition, if they meet special criteria. USCIS will review such requests on a case-by-case basis.

NACUBO CONTACTS Liz Clark, director of federal affairs, 202.861.2553, @lizclarknacubo; and Mary Bachinger, director of tax policy, 202.861.2581

Beginning April 3, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services suspended ‘premium processing’—the procedure enabling applicants to obtain visa approvals.