February 25, 2009
Last week, I wrote to you about the federal economic stimulus bill and the opportunities that it might bring to the Medical University. Some important and positive developments have occurred in the interim, so this update is intended to provide additional information. As this is a complicated topic, and one that is changing on an almost daily basis, the description provided here should be viewed as the best information available today, and we will provide further updates as we learn more.
The South Carolina House Ways and Means Committee is preparing their recommended budgets for the next fiscal year. Last week, they proposed allocating the education portion of the federal stimulus funds to K-12 and higher education budgets. For MUSC, this corresponds to an increase of $15.1 million for each of the next two years. Even with this replaced money, we would still have $6.5 million less money next year than we had at the beginning of this fiscal year. Still, we are very grateful for this support because, as recently as two weeks ago, we were anticipating the possibility of further cuts in state funding.
It is useful to remember that this is just the beginning of the budget process. The House Ways and Means proposal must be approved by the full House, followed by the Senate, and the Governor, with a resolution of any vetoes. In other words, it will be months before we have a final budget for next year, and along the way, it is likely that changes will be made. Equally important, there are stipulations within the federal stimulus bill, with regard to restoring state education funding to prior levels. The proposed budget does not meet those stipulations, so South Carolina would have to obtain a waiver from the federal government. In other words, we cannot count on these new funds yet, but we will do our best to work with our elected officials to secure them.
It is important to remember that, even if awarded, the federal funds provide no benefit for the current fiscal year, which runs through the end of June. Therefore, the measures that we have taken to deal with our current budget, including furloughs and limited reductions-in-force, cannot be rescinded. The new money would help us to avoid furloughs in the coming year, however, allowing us to make a smoother and more thoughtful transition to the new realities of reduced state funding. We still have to find significant organizational efficiencies, but we can do so in a more orderly transition than we thought possible even a few weeks ago.
Another critical opportunity for us created by the federal stimulus bill, which could result in even more new money than the education component, is the $10 billion increase in appropriations to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For the next update letter, I have asked Dr. Steve Lanier, the Associate Provost for Research, to provide a summary of these funding opportunities and how we plan to compete for these funds.
In the meantime, thanks again for all that you are doing for MUSC and for the people of South Carolina.