March 26, 2010

State relations

House passes budget bills with no further cuts to higher education

The full House considered and passed all thirteen appropriations bills this week. The bills, sponsored by Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood), will now move to the Senate.

A number of reductions were made to the various state departments. HB2003, the higher education appropriations bill, passed with the 5.2 percent reduction for flat tuition agreement intact. University-related items also retained the committee-recommended amounts, which included increases above the governor’s recommendations for the Missouri Kidney Program, Missouri Telehealth, University Hospitals and Clinics, and $2 million for a joint UMKC-Missouri State University pharmacy program. In addition, Rep. Don Ruzicka (R-Mt. Vernon) successfully passed an amendment to increase the appropriation to Missouri Rehabilitation Center by $400,000. The House passed the bill by a vote of 110 to 46.

In part, higher education institutions avoided reductions through an unrelated amendment by Rep. Maynard Wallace (R-Thornfield). Rep. Wallace offered an amendment to HB2002, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s appropriations bill, which reduced the school foundation formula by $105 million. Rep. Wallace explained the reduction would reduce the formula to its Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations level, which would allow schools to plan their FY11 budgets in a similar manner to the current fiscal year. The amendment was adopted with a vote of 80 to 68. The amendment, as explained during an inquiry between Rep. Icet and Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), effectively “balanced” the House’s version of the budget. Its passage made it unnecessary for Rep. Icet to introduce a number of additional reduction amendments, including one that would have reduced higher education institutions’ appropriation by $14 million.

Senate working groups explore cost cutting options and efficiencies for state government

As the state prepares for a challenging budget environment for FY11 and FY12, senators took a break from normal activities March 23 to meet as four-member “working groups” to explore public and agency/department suggestions for ways to save money in eight categories of state government.

The “Rebooting State Government” initiative was developed by Senate President Pro-Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) and was designed to take an unconventional approach to dealing with shrinking revenues. The Senate received hundreds of e-mail suggestions from citizens for ways the state could save money. These, as well as suggestions from departments and agencies, were reviewed. Additionally, UM System President Gary Forsee provided a list of suggestions to the working group on education topics, including examples of steps UM has taken to cut costs.

Each group developed five or six recommendations, and the ideas were presented to the full Senate. Recommendations that move forward will either be developed into amendments for existing legislation, incorporated into budget discussions as the FY11 budget bills are received in the Senate, or suggested to agency or department directors who may be able to make changes without legislative involvement.

Click here to view the Senate summaries of the working groups:

University officials were interested in the session that reviewed education ideas. Most of the recommendations considered by the working group related to elementary and secondary education, but the group did suggest serious conversations about combining the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with the Department of Higher Education. They also suggested higher education institutions explore additional ways to find shared services, prompted in part by efforts of UM officials to implement shared services.

Senate Education Committee approves Bright Flight legislation

A bill to clarify the distribution of Bright Flight merit-based awards when full funding is not appropriated was adopted 8 to 0 by the Senate Education Committee March 24. SB733, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), who is also chairman of the committee, clarifies that funding of the awards up to $3,000 for students who score in the top three percent on standardized tests is the top priority. Students who score in the fourth or fifth percentiles would be awarded up to $1,000 only if funds are available.

The allocations became an issue for the coming year when the Bright Flight program increased the amount of the award for students in the top three percent from $2,000 to $3,000 and eligibility was expanded to include students in the fourth and fifth percentiles. Lawmakers do not have sufficient funds to appropriate for full awards, and the Department of Higher Education had no clear guidelines for how to allocate a partial award. The changes, which were suggested by UM officials, help ensure that the original intent of the program—to keep the best and brightest students in Missouri—is upheld.

The bill also makes several other adjustments and clarifications in the Bright Flight program. It now awaits full Senate debate.

UM bill to establish science, technology, engineering and math initiative moves forward

President Forsee has emphasized the importance of taking steps to increase the number of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math programs. A bill to establish such an initiative within the Department of Higher Education was adopted 8 to 0 by the Senate Education Committee March 24.

SB936, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), establishes a fund to help match private and institutional dollars allocated to enhance and expand programs designed to increase the number of students in these fields. The initiative established by the bill could be used to fund endowed teaching fellowships, financial aid and scholarship programs for students studying in the field, and pre-college camps to expose younger students to science, engineering and other fields.

Spinal Cord Injury Fund bill passes Senate

The Senate approved SB987, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), March 25. The bill would allow the Spinal Cord Injury Fund to increase the amount of its research awards. Current law allows the fund to award grants of $50,000 each, which has proven difficult, due to the high cost of spinal cord injury-related research. As a result, the funds remain underutilized. SB987 would increase the award amount to $250,000 in order to adequately support cutting-edge research. The bill now moves to the House, where it will be sponsored by Rep. Steve Hobbs (R-Mexico).

MU Extension offers workshop for legislative staff

MU Extension held a workshop at the Capitol March 25 to showcase databases and programs available through Extension to legislative staff to assist them with their office responsibilities. More than 20 legislative aides attended. Presenters included Mary Simon Leuci, assistant dean, community development; Bill Elder, director, Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA); and Chris Fulcher, co-director of the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES).

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Elder discusses the upcoming census count and its impact on Missouri during the Extension workshop March 25.

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Leuci (standing) helps workshop participants navigate a Web site showing socioeconomic data in legislative districts.

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MU Extension staff show legislative aides how to view the OSEDA database.

Federal update

Congress ends busy week with approval of health care reform and student financial aid package

After a year-long debate, health care reform came to a conclusion as the House of Representatives adopted HR3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The legislation was passed March 21, with the chamber passing the Senate-adopted health care legislation, by a vote of 219 to 212. The president signed the bill into law March 23.

Following the vote on the Senate-passed legislation, the House approved the entire reconciliation package, HR4872, the vehicle that combined modifications to the health care legislation as well as changes to student aid programs. This bill was approved by a vote of 220 to 211.

The reconciliation package then moved to the Senate where two amendments were adopted, which meant the package with amendments would have to return to the House for approval. The Senate voted to approve the amended reconciliation package by 56 to 43 March 24. The House gave final passage the following day.

Included in this package are measures to mandate health care coverage for all Americans and transition the student loan industry from the Federal Family Education Loan program (FFEL) to Direct Loans. Other provisions include:

Pell Grant

  • Maximum: Based on the assumption that the appropriated maximum grant will be at the current level of $4,860 for the foreseeable future, the maximum would increase annually from the current level of $5,550, starting in academic year 2013-2014. Following that, the annual increase would be at the rate of the Consumer Price Index. The maximum would reach its peak in 2017-2018 and level off for the remainder of the life of the legislation.
  • Shortfall: The legislation would allocate $13.5 billion for the shortfall in the program. The funds would be available through the end of FY12.
  • “Ratable Reduction:” The Education Department would no longer have the authority to “ratably reduce” the size of the award.

College Access Challenge grants

  • Created by the most recent higher education reauthorization bill, the program would receive $750 million over five years (FY10 to FY14). Each state would be guaranteed at least one percent of the funding.

Changes to student loan programs

  • The Federal Family Education Loan program (FFEL) would be terminated July 1, 2010. All new loans after that date would originate from the federal Direct Loan program.
  • Borrowers would be allowed to consolidate loans into this program.
  • “Not-for-profit servicers,” including state entities, would be allowed to service loans, if they had contracts before July 2009.
  • $50 million for education to provide technical assistance to institutions making the switch to Direct Loans.
  • Income-based repayment: Effective July 1, 2014, repayments would be capped at 10 percent of adjusted gross income (currently capped at 15 percent), and the loan’s balance would be cancelled after 20 years (currently cancelled after 25 years).
  • State-owned banks: State-owned banks would qualify as a government entity for the purposes of originating student loans.

MU student leaders, 4-H program attend meetings in Washington, D.C., meet with delegation members

Four University of Missouri students, who are part of the Big XII Leadership Organization, attended meetings with other student leaders and met with legislators in Washington, D.C. Student leaders Jordan Paul, Evan Wood, Tim Noce and Danielle Bellis encouraged delegation members to increase Pell Grants and ensure student loan access. They met with U.S. Sens. Kit Bond (R) and Claire McCaskill (D), as well as with U.S. Reps. Blaine Leutkemeyer (R) and Ike Skelton (D).

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Student leaders visit Washington, D.C.

Members of MU Extension’s 4-H program also visited Washington to attend a leadership conference and express support for 4-H and its diverse activities. 4-H camp leaders and high school students Courtney Brown of Chillicothe, Jeff Durbin of Monroe City and Miki Cullifer of Moberly traveled to D.C. with Diana Duncan, interim state 4-H youth specialist, to meet with U.S. Reps. Sam Graves (R) and Leutkemeyer, and Sen. Bond. The students discussed how 4-H has helped their personal development, from raising show rabbits to winning cake decorating competitions.

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4-H student leaders in Washington, D.C.

March 19, 2010

State relations

House Budget Committee passes appropriations bills

This week, the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood), considered all thirteen appropriations bills and passed the amended versions. A few changes were made to HB2003, the higher education appropriations bill. $1.5 million was decreased from the Bright Flight Scholarship program and redirected to two programs within the Department of Economic Development. The University of Missouri System received a few increases or restorations. The UM and Missouri State University joint pharmacy doctorate program, currently in development, received $2 million. University Hospitals and Clinics received $2.4 million, Missouri Telehealth Network received $161,000 and the Missouri Kidney Program received $200,000. These three additions restored the programs to a 5.2 percent cut from their Fiscal Year 2010 levels. Attempts were made to add funds to a few other UM-related programs, such as MOREnet and the State Historical Society, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. The appropriations bills should be considered by the full House next week.

In other budget news, Gov. Jay Nixon announced last week that he and the legislature must be prepared to reduce state spending by more than $500 million in the coming fiscal year, as state tax receipts continue to come in below projections and federal funding sources remain uncertain. The state constitution requires a balanced budget, so Nixon provided several suggestions, including combining the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with the Department of Higher Education into one department.

To see the governor’s speech announcing these and other recommendations, click here.

Senators plan “work group sessions” March 23 to review budget cutting ideas

Facing the most dire budget challenges in a generation, Senate President Pro-Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) announced this week plans to form eight working groups composed of four senators each to review ideas for cutting costs in state departments. The Senate will suspend normal operations March 23 to allow the groups to meet through the day to develop a specific set of suggestions for savings in each state department.

The groups will also review suggestions for savings sent in by the public through the Senate’s Web site.

Although testimony will not be taken at the meetings, they are open to the public. Locations had not been announced as of the afternoon of March 18.

The groups and Senate members of each area as follows:

Agriculture/Outdoors/Department of Natural Resources: Frank Barnitz (D-Lake Spring), Dan Clemens (R-Marshfield), Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence).

Courts/Legal/Department of Public Safety: Matt Bartle (R-Lee’s Summit), Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon), Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) and Rob Mayer (R-Dexter).

Education: Rita Days (D-St. Louis), David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) and Yvonne Wilson (D-Kansas City).

General Government/Office of Administration: Tim Green (D-St. Louis), Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis), Luann Ridgeway (R-Smithville) and Carl Vogel (R-Jefferson City).

Retirement: Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), John Griesheimer (R-Washington) and Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis).

Social Programs: Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), Norma Champion (R-Springfield), Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville) and Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale).

Tax Structure: Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), Brad Lager (R-Savannah), Chuck Purgason (R-Caulfield) and Robin Wright-Jones (D-St. Louis).

Transportation: Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), Ryan McKenna (D-Crystal City), Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City) and Bill Stouffer (R-Napton).

Access Missouri scholarship legislation moves forward as presidents discuss compromise

Changing the allocation levels for the state’s needs-based Access Missouri scholarship plan was the subject of meetings this week in the Capitol and in Columbia. Discussions related to plans for equalizing award levels for students at both public and private institutions. Current policy provides more than twice as much funding for students who choose to attend private institutions.

A group of ten presidents representing public and private institutions met at Providence Point, home of UM system President Gary Forsee, March 16 to discuss common ground and work on a compromise. The group selected Higher Education Commissioner Robert Stein as spokesperson and issued a statement March 17 identifying eight points of agreement that emerged from the initial meeting. Click here to view more detailed information.

Most significant is the fact that the group agreed to have equal awards for the four-year sector. Discussions will continue regarding timing of the phase-in and sunset clause in the legislation, as well as other adjustments in the program, including GPA requirements for renewal. A final agreement is expected in the near future, and that agreement is expected to be reflected in future versions of legislation in both the Senate and House that relate to award levels for the program.

In the Senate, SB784, sponsored by Sens. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), was reported from the Senate Education Committee to the Senate floor March 18. The bill grandfathers in current Access Missouri recipients at existing levels and would phase in the equalized awards at $2,850 for four-year schools and $1,250 for two-year schools beginning in 2015.

In the House, HB1812, sponsored by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff), was discussed and passed in an executive session of the House Higher Education Committee March 16. After debate and consideration of amendments to move up the phase-in date, the committee adopted a House Committee Substitute identical to the Senate bill that would begin the change in 2015. Kingery subsequently reported the bill out of committee, and it was assigned to the Rules Committee for consideration before going on the House calendar for debate.

Ethics reform

The Special Standing Committee on Ethics Reform and Government Accountability met this week to discuss HB2300, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Wilson (R-Neosho), which changes the laws regarding conflicts of interest and lobbying, ethics and campaign finance. The key provisions of the bill include a ban on committee-to-committee transfers of campaign donations, a prohibition on legislators serving as political consultants, the requirement that legislators wait at least one legislative session before becoming a lobbyist and a $5,000-limit on campaign contributions. The committee expects to vote the legislation out March 23. It will then proceed to the House floor for further debate.

The Missouri Senate has already approved legislation to modify the state’s ethics laws. SB577, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), is awaiting a hearing in the House. SB577 does not contain campaign contribution limits, but would require legislative candidates to report within 48 hours a contribution of more than $250 received while in session.

Rep. Calloway receives award

Rep. Don Calloway (D-St. Louis) received the Brain Injury Association of Missouri’s award of appreciation for his work on HB1548, which establishes the High School Brain Injury Prevention Act. The association also honored Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Peters) for his work in the area of brain injury prevention. The ceremony took place on Brain Injury Awareness Day, March 6.

Thomas Martin,  clinical associate professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health  Professions and president of the Brain Injury Association of Missouri presents  Rep. Calloway with award of appreciation.

Thomas Martin, clinical associate professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions and president of the Brain Injury Association of Missouri presents Rep. Calloway with award of appreciation.

Insurance coverage for autism bill moves to the House

The Senate gave final approval to SB618, sponsored by Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville), March 18. The bill would mandate insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. As it is currently drafted, the bill would require coverage of unlimited visits up to $55,000 per year for individuals under 21.  A waiver is possible for employers who can demonstrate increased health insurance costs of 2.5 percent or more over a 12-month period.  The bill now moves to the House.

Sen. Kit Bond presents  his views about the future of life sciences in Missouri’s economy during a  presentation as part of UM’s Life Sciences Summit March 8-9 in Kansas City.

Sen. Kit Bond presents his views about the future of life sciences in Missouri’s economy during a presentation as part of UM’s Life Sciences Summit March 8-9 in Kansas City.

Federal relations

Democrats announce agreement on overhaul of student loan system

Congressional Democrats outlined the final agreement on legislation to overhaul the student-loan system March 18, promising annual inflation-adjusted increases in the maximum Pell Grant and billions of dollars in additional aid for higher education. That measure is expected to face final votes in the coming week, both in the House and the Senate.

The student-loan portion of the plan would end the bank-based system of distributing federally subsidized student loans. Instead, the plan would have the U.S. Education Department give all loan money directly to colleges and their students. The final plan, outlined March 18, would use $36 billion of savings from consolidation to increase the maximum value of a Pell Grant by the rate of inflation each year for the next 10 years. Currently, Pell Grants are scheduled to reach $5,550 per individual for the coming academic year. The Obama administration had asked Congress to approve an annual increase equal to the rate of inflation plus one percentage point.

The plan includes $255 million per year to help historically black colleges, as outlined in the House bill. It also includes $750 million over five years for College Access Challenge grants, which would support state efforts to enroll and graduate underrepresented students. This figure is down from the $3 billion over 10 years outlined in the earlier House version. An additional $2 billion over 10 years is also included to help community colleges.

Finally, the bill includes $1.5 billion over 10 years to finance the administration’s proposal to limit mandatory monthly payments on a federally subsidized student loan to 10 percent of discretionary income, down from the current 15 percent, and to forgive the loan entirely after 20 years instead of the current 25 years.

March 5, 2010

State relations

University supporters turn out for annual Alumni Alliance Legislative Day March 2

Alumni and supporters from the University of Missouri’s four campuses and Extension converged on the Capitol March 2 to visit with legislators and encourage support for the university’s legislative priorities. Alumni from various campuses invited legislators to mix and mingle in the morning, then gathered in the rotunda to hear from UM System President Gary Forsee and Gov. Jay Nixon. Supporters also visited legislators throughout the day and encouraged support for the operating budget, capital projects, Access Missouri and other priorities.

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Alumni, students and friends of the university attend a rally featuring Gov. Jay Nixon and UM System President Gary Forsee during Legislative Day March 2. For more photos from Legislative Day, click here.

Several displays in the Third Floor Rotunda featured university programs and initiatives related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The night before, the university honored six alumni and friends for their support of the University of Missouri System. The awards were presented by UM System President Gary Forsee at a dinner in Jefferson City.

Recipients were:

  • Outstanding Alumni Service to the University of Missouri System: Gov. Jay Nixon
  • Outstanding Alumni Service to the University of Missouri-Columbia: Sen. David Pearce
  • Outstanding Alumni Service to the University of Missouri-Kansas City: Dr. Cameron Lindsey
  • Outstanding Alumni Service to Missouri University of Science and Technology: Delbert Day, Ph.D.
  • Outstanding Alumni Service to the University of Missouri-St. Louis: Chris L. Nicastro, Ph.D.
  • Outstanding Alumni Service to Missouri Extension: Jim Snider

To read more about each recipient, click here.

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon accepts the Outstanding Alumni Service Award from UM System President Gary Forsee during the Alumni Alliance Legislative Day Rally March 2 in the Capitol rotunda.

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Winners of Outstanding Alumni Service Awards from the University of Missouri System include, from left: Chris Nicastro, Jim Snider, Cameron Lindsey, Sen. David Pearce, and Delbert Day.

House Committee considers Access Missouri equalization bill

Representatives and students from public and private higher education institutions attended a hearing for HB1812 before the House Higher Education Committee March 2.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) who also chairs the committee, is similar to SB874 heard two weeks ago in the Senate Education Committee.  The bills would equalize the need-based Access Missouri scholarships at $2,850 for students who attend both public and private four-year institutions.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton testified in support of the legislation on behalf of the Council on Public Higher Education. Others testifying in support of the bill included the MU Parents Association, Mizzou Alumni Association, Mizzou Flagship Council, Associated Students of the University of Missouri, Missouri Southern State University, and several students from public two- and four-year institutions.

Because of the large number of people testifying for and against the bill, the committee plans to discuss it at the next meeting scheduled following spring break.

The Senate counterpart has been passed by the Senate Education Committee and is awaiting calendar assignment. See a copy of the remarks here.

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UM President Gary Forsee, right, testifies in support of SB936 before the Senate Education Committee March 3. The bill is sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), left.

UM president testifies in support of science, technology, engineering and math education

University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee urged the Senate Education Committee March 3 to support legislation that would provide matching funds for institutions of higher education to enhance and increase the number of students studying in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.  SB936, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), would establish the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Initiative within the Department of Higher Education to appropriate funds to institutions for endowed teaching professors, scholarships, pre-college science camps and other activities designed to produce more students and graduates in these fields.

The hearing took place the week of Gov. Jay Nixon’s math, engineering, technology and science week. The committee did not take action on the bill. Read a copy of the press release issued about the president’s testimony here and see the text of Forsee’s remarks here.

Missouri budget projections discussed as spring break begins

Legislative spring break began upon adjournment March 4, closing a week in which Gov. Jay Nixon met with House and Senate leadership to discuss the state’s continuing revenue uncertainty.

For the first two thirds of Fiscal Year 2010, revenues declined 12.7 percent compared to FY09. February collections decreased by 14.6 percent, causing speculation of further withholdings for the current fiscal year. The governor also discussed revising the consensus revenue estimate for FY11, anticipating less revenue than the 3.6 percent increase originally projected in December 2009.  State leaders are debating whether the governor will release a new budget proposal for FY11 based on revised numbers, or whether House and Senate appropriators will revise the current budget proposal.

In preparation for hearings set to begin March 15, Rep. Allen Icet (R-Wildwood), chair of the House Budget Committee, released committee substitutes for the FY11 budget bills this week.  Few changes were made to HB2003, the higher education budget bill.  The recommendation for the University of Missouri’s core operating budget was consistent with the governor’s recommendation of $428.1 million, a 5.2 percent reduction. UM-related programs, such as Telehealth and Missouri Rehabilitation Center, also received recommendations consistent with the governor’s proposals. The House Appropriations–Education committee’s recommended increases of $1 million for MOREnet and $300,000 for the Missouri Kidney Program were not included in the committee substitute. When legislators return, all budget bills will be reviewed and subject to amendments in the House Budget committee.

New member of Coordinating Board for Higher Education confirmed

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Craig Van Matre, a Columbia attorney who has undergraduate and law degrees from MU, was confirmed this week as the newest member of the state’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education. Van Matre (left) appeared March 3 before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee and was introduced to the committee by Sen. Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph), right. Van Matre was confirmed by the full Senate March 4.

Federal relations

U.S. House, Senate focus on jobs initiatives

By a vote of 217-201, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2847, the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE). The legislation must still receive another vote in the Senate, further delaying implementation of the first portion of the Democrats’ “jobs agenda.” An additional part of this package, H.R. 4213, the Tax Extenders Act of 2009, will be considered by the House after the Senate finishes its three weeks of work on the package of tax extensions.

The centerpiece of H.R. 2847 – the $17.6 billion HIRE Act, is payroll tax relief for businesses that hire new workers, which would cost $13 billion over 10 years. The bill also includes extensions of the Highway Trust Fund, the Build America Bonds program and expense deductions for small businesses.