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Vision Community Urges Increased NIH/NEI Funding During Week Focused on FY2008 Budget and Appropriations Actions

Legislative Update
March 29, 2007

On March 27, representatives from the vision community testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee in support of Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute (NEI) of $31 billion and $711 million, respectively, a 6.7 percent increase over FY2007. Vision community representatives included NAEVR President Dr. Stephen Ryan (Doheny Eye Institute) and Dr. Karla Zadnik (Ohio State University College of Optometry), who represented the American Optometric Association.

Within the same week, the following has occurred:

  • On March 23, the Senate passed by a vote of 52-47 its FY2008 Budget Resolution, after adopting by voice vote an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) adding $2.2 billion to the Presidentís FY2008 NIH budget request of $28.6 billion. On March 29, the House passed its Budget Resolution, which recommends priority increases in key domestic programs, including a $1.3 billion increase above the Presidentís FY2008 budget request.

  • On March 26, Sens. Harkin and Specter presided over the first Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Institute Directors-in this case, representatives of the "Brain" Institutes (neurological disease, hearing, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse). This followed the March 19 Subcommittee hearing with NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and four NEI-funded investigators. The hearing in which the NEI will participate has yet to be scheduled.

  • As of March 29, 131 Members signed onto a House "Dear Colleague" bipartisan letter urging a 6.7 percent increase in NIH funding over the next three years. This follows a March 15 letter submitted by seven members of the "Blue Dog" Coalition (a group of conservative Democrats whose main concern is fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget) to LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair David Obey (D-WI) and Ranking Member James Walsh (R-NY) urging a 6.7 percent increase in NIH funding.