MADISON, Wis. — The 2015 state budget was written with Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential ambitions in mind and, as passed by the GOP-led State Assembly, packed with special interest favors – more tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporations, taking money directly away from K-12 public schools to give to unaccountable private voucher schools and giveaways to a big oil pipeline company and the predatory payday loan industry.
Meanwhile, a commonsense solution to help Wisconsin student loan borrowers by allowing them to refinance their loan, just like you can a mortgage, didn’t make the cut after all 63 Assembly Republicans voted against an amendment to add the provisions of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act to the budget.
One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross blasted the inaction saying, “Student loan debt is a crisis for borrowers, their families and our entire state economy. But instead of helping borrowers, Gov. Walker wrote a budget to advance his presidential ambitions and Assembly Republicans piled on approving a budget full of special interest giveaways.”
In the 2013 legislative session and again in 2015 the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act has been introduced to allow borrowers to refinance their student loan, just like you can a mortgage. The act would also give the middle class significant tax savings by expanding a state tax deduction to include student loan debt payments. The bill, introduced by Rep. Cory Mason and Sen. Dave Hansen has the support of 50 legislative cosponsors in 2015.
“Reducing the amount hundred of thousands of student loan borrowers are paying by allowing the ability to refinance their loans, just like you can a mortgage, is a way to jump start the Wisconsin economy. We know the billions of dollars in tax breaks for corporations and donors to Scott Walker’s political campaigns haven’t worked and we’re dead last in the midwest in jobs,” said Ross.
Original research by One Wisconsin Institute found Wisconsin borrowers reporting average student loan debt payments of $388 per month over a term of 18 to 22 years. This debt has a dramatic, negative economic on the state with borrowers significantly more likely to rent versus own their home and drive a used versus new vehicle than Wisconsinites without the burden of student loan debt.
Nationally there are an estimated 43 million student loan borrowers with over $1.3 trillion in debt. Statistics from the federal government released last year showed there were over 800,000 Wisconsin residents with federal student loan debt exceeding $18 billion.
Ross concluded, “Student loan borrowers have worked hard to get their education and took on the personal responsibility to pay for it. They’ve done the right thing and earned a fair shot at the middle class. That’s why it’s so outrageous that in Gov. Walker’s zeal to advance his own political ambitions and the Assembly Republicans’ propensity choose special interests over the middle class they’re being left behind.”