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Foster Introduces Bipartisan Amendment To Close Payer State Gap

Jun 3, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11) introduced a bipartisan amendment aimed at closing the Payer State gap. Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars is transferred out of states that pay more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal spending – “Payer States” – into states that receive much more federal spending than they pay in taxes – “Taker States.” 

The amendment would eliminate the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, otherwise known as EPSCoR. The EPSCoR program earmarks funds for scientific research to a specific set of states, the great majority of which already get far more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes. EPSCoR is just one example of a program with funding formulas that contribute to the “Payer State” problem.

Eliminating the EPSCoR program is an initial small step towards eliminating the Payer State problem. Earlier this year, Foster and Scott Garrett (R-NJ) launched the Payer State Caucus to highlight the problem and look for ways to close the gap.

The amendment was narrowly defeated 195 to 232.

Video of Foster speaking about the amendment is available here.  

Text of Foster’s remarks is below:

Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars is transferred out of states that pay far more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal spending – the so-called “Payer States” – and this money is transferred into states that receive a lot more federal spending than they pay in taxes – the “Taker States.”

This is an enormous and economically unjustifiable redistribution of wealth between the states.

The Payer States can be characterized in a number of ways, but most of the Payer States are large population states, while virtually all of the Taker States are smaller – which means that they are over-represented in the Senate. 

Over time, Senators from these states have inserted hundreds of programs that systematically steer money into the Taker States.

Our amendment takes a first, small step to begin rolling back these Taker State preferences, by eliminating one of the most unjustifiable of them all: the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, commonly referred to as EPSCoR.

EPSCoR was started as an experimental program in 1978 with the goal of redistributing federal research dollars into states that traditionally received less than their “fair share” of NSF funding.

However, because “fair share” was determined on a per state basis rather than a per capita basis, it has devolved into just another program that steers money into smaller states that already get far more than their fair share of federal spending.

Since no allowance is made for whether the state has a big or small population, the EPSCoR program systematically discriminates against researchers simply because they come from states with large populations.

The EPSCoR states are hardly lacking for federal largesse. According to the Tax Foundation, in a typical year the EPSCoR states received approximately $60 billion more in federal spending than they paid in federal taxes. 

So--how does one justify a program that excludes researchers in states like Florida or Texas, which over the past three years got only an average of about $7 per capita in NSF funding, while steering money into states like Rhode Island, Alaska, and New Hampshire that already got five times more? 

Why should a researcher at Brown University in Rhode Island be eligible for a grant set-aside that is unavailable to researchers at SMU or FSU, UCLA, Rutgers, or Northern Illinois?

As a scientist I find that it is not surprising that it is very difficult to find supporters for EPSCoR in the scientific community.

Precious research funding would be far better spent in a competitive, merit based process, as it will be if our amendment is adopted.