MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker is on a much ballyhooed listening tour, but according to media reports he’s only hearing from invited guests. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said it’s no surprise Walker’s tour is invite only since his agenda features a student debt plan that denies any help to reducing the monthly payments of the nearly one million Wisconsinites with student debt.
“With Scott Walker it’s always politics first,” commented Ross. “That’s why this guy is on a listening tour where he’s picking who he’ll hear from and why he’s claiming he has a plan to help with student debt while denying borrowers any help lowering their monthly student loan debt payments.”
According to a news report, a listening tour Walker has been advertising as an opportunity for Wisconsin citizens to share their opinions on issues with him is not open to the general public. Instead, the events are invitation only with attendees culled from lists developed by Walker’s gubernatorial office, fellow Republican legislators and other groups.
Among the issues Walker is presumably talking at people about as he seeks to rebuild his damaged political standing is his college debt plan. Unfortunately for the people Walker and his Republican legislative allies claim to want to help their plan is more about providing themselves with political cover than offering them the help they need. Walker’s package has been termed “woefully incomplete” for denying borrowers the ability to lower their monthly payments by refinancing their loans, just like you can with a mortgage. In total the Walker-GOP scheme fails to deliver any relief to at least 97 percent of individuals with student loan debt.
Ross noted that not only is Walker denying any help lowering monthly payments for hard working borrowers who took on the personal responsibility of paying for their education, he’s pursued policies that have exacerbated the $1.3 trillion student loan debt crisis for Wisconsinites. A recent memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau notes that funding for the University of Wisconsin System and Technical Colleges has been reduced by nearly $1 billion when compared to the year before Walker entered office. In addition Walker and the Republican majority hiked tuition by 11% in their budget and so woefully underfunded financial aid that 41,000 students eligible for aid received none.
Walker and his fellow legislative Republicans are again opposing the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act. First introduced in 2013 and again in 2015 by legislative Democrats, the plan would create a state authority to help borrowers refinance their student loans, just like you can with a mortgage. The measure also extends a state tax break to payments on student loans that could provide an annual tax benefit of over $530 for an individual or $1,000 for a couple and provides additional consumer information about higher education loans.
A report by the White House on a federal student loan refinancing plan showed that 515,000 of the current 812,000 Wisconsinites with just federal student loan debt would immediately see lower interest rates, reducing their monthly payments.
Ross concluded, “A listening tour that excludes the general public and a student debt plan that denies any help lowering monthly payments for borrowers might work for a craven politician like Gov. Walker. But for Wisconsin’s student loan borrowers who have earned a fair shot at the middle class, it’s the common sense reforms of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act that will deliver what they need.”