House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up FY2008 Appropriations Bill that Increases NEI Funding by $9.9 Million; NAEVR Urges Further Increase

House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up FY2008 Appropriations Bill that Increases NEI Funding by $9.9 million; NAEVR Urges Further Increase

Legislative Update
June 8, 2007

On June 7, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up a Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 spending bill that would increase National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to $29.65 billion, an increase of $750 million or 2.6 percent above the current year’s funding level and $1.029 billion or 3.6 percent above the President’s request. However, due to an increase in the NIH transfer to the Global HIV/AIDS fund, the net increase in the NIH budget is $549 million or 1.9 percent.

The bill would increase FY2008 funding for the National Eye Institute (NEI) by $9.9 million or 1.49 percent to a level of $677 million, which is $9.2 million over the President’s budget request. With the exception of Institutes and Centers with special programs, the bill provides for an across-the-board percent increase of approximately 1.5 percent.

NAEVR had joined with the medical research advocacy community in requesting FY2008 NIH funding at $31 billion and NEI funding at $711 million—a 6.7 percent increase to make up for the past four years of NIH/NEI funding that failed to keep pace with inflation and reduced overall purchasing power by 14 percent. NAEVR has issued a statement that it is hopeful that Congress will improve FY2008 NIH/NEI funding prospects as the appropriations process proceeds in both chambers.

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to consider the bill on June 14, and the House intends to pass 11 of its 12 FY2008 spending bills (except Defense) before the Fourth of July recess. As the Senate begins Subcommittee markups, the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a June 22 hearing of NIH Institute/Center Directors that will include NEI Director Dr. Paul Sieving.

Of special note in the FY2008 LHHS bill is that it includes a direct appropriation of $495 million for the common fund (which subsumed the NIH Roadmap) for trans-NIH research, established in late 2006 with Congressional passage of the NIH Reform Act of 2006. Due to timing, this was not directly appropriated in the President’s initial FY2008 budget request, meaning that the NEI would have $8.8 million for programs initially slated for a common fund contribution—in addition to the $9.9 million directly appropriated to the NEI line item, for a total of $18.7 million or a 2.8 percent increase over FY2007 (still below the 3.7 percent biomedical inflation rate). In the final FY2007 Joint Funding Resolution, the inclusion of a $483 million directly appropriated common fund preempted an NEI contribution, meaning that the Institute had an additional $8.5 million for programs. At its June 7 National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC) meeting, the NEI reported that ten grantees were awarded a total of $4.2 million from the Director’s Bridge Award program, which represented a special $91 million pool of funds in the $483 million direct common fund appropriation. This means that, in total, NEI netted $12.7 million in additional funds for vision investigators in FY2007 over FY2006.