Walker’s Choice: Millionaires or the Middle Class

Will Governor Tilt State Tax Code to Favor the Wealthy Sending Their Children to Private Schools or Help Middle Class Families and Students Afford College?

MADISON, Wis. — As Gov. Scott Walker ponders his vetoes to the 2013 state budget, a $30 million tax break with no income limits, worth up to $10,000, for parents already sending their children to private schools should be on the list, according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross. With a one trillion dollar student loan debt crisis hurting Wisconsin families and dragging down the economy, increasing state financial aid for those who are eligible or tax credits for tuition and interest on student loans would instead be a better deal for Wisconsin students and middle class families.

“With over one trillion dollars in student loan debt nationwide it is appalling that Gov. Walker would consider signing a $30 million tax break, worth up to $10,000, for the richest in Wisconsin while providing no help students who worked hard and took responsibility for paying their way through school,” commented Ross.

Under a tax break slipped into the state budget during an all-night session of the Joint Committee on Finance, an estimated $30 million would be spent to give parents a tax break of up to $10,000 for tuition they are already paying to send their children to K-12 private schools. Under the budget provision there is no upper limit on taxpayer’s income to claim the credit.

In contrast, an existing tax credit for college tuition and fees only allows a maximum of slightly over $6,500 to be claimed and is limited to filers with incomes up to $100,000.

As Governor, Walker signed into law $107 million in tuition increases at the UW System, cut the technical college system by 30% and froze state financial aid for eligible students for two consecutive budgets.

Ross noted, “The trillion dollar student loan debt crisis is turning higher education into a multi-decade debt sentence instead of the path to the middle class. Yet Gov. Walker has ignored the consequences of this clear and present danger to the best economic interest of our state’s families and economy.”

Original research from One Wisconsin Now’s partner organization, One Wisconsin Institute, found that in Wisconsin, the average graduate with a Bachelor’s degree is paying $350 per month for nearly 19 years to retire their student loan debt. Their debt is also costing Wisconsin over $200 million annually in new car sales and results in significantly lower rates of home ownership among individuals earning solid middle class incomes but still paying off a student loan. The Institute has also just completed a national survey on the impact of student loan debt, the results of which can be found here.

He concluded, “Gov. Walker’s choice is clear, he can either side with millionaires already sending their children to private schools by giving them a $10,000 tax break or helping students from middle class and working families trying to get a ahead with a higher education.”

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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.