In the first three quarters of 2016, Yale spent $390,000 on lobbying efforts, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — a lower figure than in recent years.
The three lobbyists employed by the Yale Office of Federal Relations have used this sum to lobby on the University’s behalf at the federal and state levels on issues ranging from academic funding to immigration reform. In addition to that of the University, lobby groups in New Haven and across Connecticut — many of which focus on obtaining educational funding and protecting state aid — are also eagerly awaiting the results of the upcoming presidential election.
In an email to the News, University Associate Vice President for Federal and State Relations Richard Jacob highlighted Yale’s lobbying priorities, including the funding of financial aid programs through Pell Grants, Federal Work Study and other programs.
Other priorities, Jacob said, include ensuring a “reasonable regulatory framework for online education that ensures quality without hindering innovation,” as well as maintaining stable and sustained growth in the budgets of agencies that fund University research. He said that the University lobbies for immigration reform that addresses the state of undocumented students.
According to Yale’s third quarter lobbying report, signed by Jacob on Oct. 20, the University lobbied for the Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Act, which relates to the funding of the Departments of Education and Health. It focuses particularly on Pell Grants, campus-based aid and international education programs as well as National Institutes of Health programs and activities.
Jacob added that due to federal tax law, Yale cannot engage in partisan politics, and as a result, lobbying on Yale’s behalf is independent from elections.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform, based in New Haven, also has a consistently strong lobbying presence at the state capitol. According to its website, the CCER is a statewide nonprofit organization that works to narrow the achievement gap and improve academic outcomes for all students in Connecticut.
Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Council, said that in 2016 the organization focused particularly on improving teacher evaluations and attracting high-quality teachers to the profession, in addition to promoting equitable funding for the statewide distribution of resources.
Villar noted that New Haven was one of 30 districts identified as an “Alliance district” by the state government in 2012, meaning it ranked among the 30 lowest performing districts in the state in terms of educational outcomes. But, he added, New Haven is directly impacted by the organization’s lobbying activities.
“New Haven, having a high concentration of impoverished students and students from a minority background, is likely to receive funding, and does receive a great deal of support and funding from the state,” Villar said.
Another lobby group that seeks to affect federal funding is the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which works to ensure adequate state aid for towns and cities in Connecticut, including New Haven.
CCM Director of Communications Kevin Maloney said that the group’s lobbying aims to protect state aid to cities and towns for both educational and noneducational purposes and ensure that new state mandate laws are not passed unless they are accompanied by adequate funding. He added that the results of the presidential election will directly impact CCM’s work.
“The election will set up the next proposed federal budget and the first proposed budget from the president,” Maloney said. “We will work hard with Connecticut’s urban, suburban and rural leaders, as well as with the congressional delegation and the two senators to ensure that the municipal interests are protected in Washington with the new president.”
Maloney also noted that tax-exempt properties such as Yale put financial pressure on urban centers. He added that as a result, CCM is working to ensure that cities with many nontaxable properties, including New Haven, have state aid accounting for the proportion of tax lost due to the existence of non-taxable institutions.
While Yale currently pays taxes on its non-academic properties, legislation introduced in the Connecticut State Senate on March 22 will, if passed, require the University to also pay property taxes on certain academic facilities. This legislation, presented in bill S.B. 414, would revoke Yale’s property tax exemption if the property generates more than $6,000 in annual income from rent, admission to athletic events or facilities, or royalties for goods produced or designed on academic property.
In a written testimony opposing the bill, Jacob argued that the proposed taxes on Yale would “diminish the University’s ability to carry out its charitable mission and to enable and support growth in New Haven.”
Jacob did not respond to request for comment regarding University lobbying efforts with respect to bill S.B 414.
The Yale Office of Federal Relations is located at 2 Whitney Ave.