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Press Release
January 12, 2016

President Obama’s State of the Union, A Night of Contrast: U.S. Sen. Baldwin Highlights Student Debt Crisis as Wisconsin GOP Triumvirate Leads Fight to Block Reform

‘It’s Clear Who Is Leading the Fight and Who Is Blocking Needed Reform’

MADISON, Wis. — As President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address tonight, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin will be joined by a UW-Parkside student as her guest to highlight the student loan debt and college affordability crisis. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted the contrast between Baldwin and the Wisconsin GOP triumvirate of Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson, who all oppose common sense plans to allow borrowers to refinance student loans, just like you can with a mortgage.

“Student loan borrowers who have worked hard and took on the personal responsibility to get their education are paying the price for the partisan shenanigans of the likes of Gov. Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson and Speaker Paul Ryan,” commented Ross. “Tonight’s State of the Union Address reveals the clear divide between those who want to help borrowers and those who want to protect the special interests and the status quo.”

Having implemented policies that have taken Wisconsin to the third worst state in the nation for percentage of 2014 college graduates with student debt, this week Gov. Scott Walker renewed his opposition to state legislation to help borrowers refinance their loans, just like you can with a mortgage.

In the U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson could not be worse on taking on the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis. In addition to touting predatory for-profit colleges as solution for rising levels of student debt and opposing federal financial aid to help eligible students pursue their higher education, Johnson, who oft touts his business acumen, has cast multiple votes against federal legislation to allow borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates.

For his part newly minted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has promised a bold agenda, but has focused his efforts to date on a 62nd attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act instead of doing anything about the $1.3 trillion, and growing, student loan debt crisis.

In Wisconsin the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act, introduced in 2013 and again in 2015 by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason, and sponsored by fifty state legislators, would help Wisconsin borrowers by creating a state authority to help them refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage. The bills, Senate Bill 194 and Assembly Bill 272, also help borrowers by extending a state tax break to payments on student loans.

Democrats in Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation have been overwhelmingly favorable to measures to take on the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis and help borrowers. Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Mark Pocan have authored refinancing bills and Reps. Ron Kind and Gwen Moore have joined in those and other reform efforts.

Ross concluded, “President Obama and many others get it, responsible hard working Americans shouldn’t be saddled with $1.3 trillion in debt for trying to get an education, they ought to get a fair shot at the middle class. There are common sense solutions to help keep higher education as the affordable pathway to a better economic future, and tonight it’s clear who is leading the fight and who is blocking these needed reforms.”

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

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