MADISON, Wis. — With Gov. Scott Walker using “Tax Day” to announce his re-election campaign, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross railed against Walker for “his stunning lack of leadership” related to the stalled Higher Ed, Lower Debt student loan relief bill, which provides more than $80 million in annual tax relief for the state’s student loan borrowers, according to the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
The Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill (SB376/AB498) was authored by Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and was co-sponsored by all 54 Democratic state legislators. A diverse coalition of organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites have endorsed the bill, which had hearings in both house of the legislature.
Ross commented, “Wisconsin’s student loan debtors had a pathway to real tax relief, but Gov. Walker is only interested in tax breaks for corporations and the rich. Drastic cuts to the University of Wisconsin, a 30 percent cut to the technical colleges, financial aid flatlined and over $200 million more paid in tuition hikes: this is the Walker record.”
Estimates from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau indicate the “average” borrower could see an income tax savings of approximately $172 under the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill. In addition, borrowers taking advantage of the ability to refinance their student loans under the bill could see significant benefits. A borrower with an interest rate of 6.8% and the average University of Wisconsin graduate’s debt load of $27,000 who could lower their interest rate to 4% would save over $40 per month, putting nearly $500 a year back in their family’s pocket.
Ross noted that students, borrowers and their families are increasingly being squeezed by a system in which dramatic cuts to the university and technical colleges, skyrocketing tuition and profiteering by big banks and the federal government has resulted in nearly 40 million borrowers holding over $1.2 trillion nationally.
According to original research by One Wisconsin Institute the student loan debt crisis has been shown to be a huge drag not just on borrowers’ household budgets, but the entire state economy, reducing new car purchasing by over $200 million annually and leaving middle class households with student loan debt overwhelmingly more likely to rent than own a home.
“Wisconsin borrowers have done the right thing, they worked hard and took on the responsibility of paying for their higher education or job training. They’re not asking for a bailout, just a system that treats them fairly and they deserve better from Gov. Walker,” concluded Ross.