MADISON, Wis. — Today marks the deadline for filing state and local taxes for 2015, and because the inaction of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican controlled legislature, Wisconsin taxpayers with student loan debt are paying higher taxes and higher monthly loan payments. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross noted that the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act officially died, buried in legislative committee by Republicans and opposed by Gov. Walker, with the April 7 expiration of the 2015-16 legislative session.
“Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature did nothing as the student loan debt crisis worsens, refusing to act on the ‘Higher Ed, Lower Debt’ Act that would have allowed borrowers to refinance their loans, just like you can a mortgage, and deduct their loan payments on their taxes,” commented Ross. “Now it’s the borrowers who are paying the price with higher monthly loan payments and lost tax savings.”
Under the provisions of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act borrowers could have realized significant tax savings, an estimated $179 for the typical borrower, by being allowed to deduct their student loan payments from their state taxes. The refinancing provisions of the bill would have provided even more savings, allowing borrowers to get a lower interest rate on their loans and lower their monthly payments.
With Walker as Governor and Republicans in control of the state legislature, Wisconsin has gone from tenth to third highest in the nation for the percentage of graduates with student loan debt. The average amount of a borrower’s debt is up too, now averaging nearly $29,000.
Ross noted that in addition to failing to act on real reform proposals the Republican cabal in charge of state government enacted double digit tuition hikes for University of Wisconsin (UW) System schools, cut nearly $1 billion in funding for the UW and technical colleges and so woefully underfunded financial aid that an average of 40,000 students eligible for aid received none.
He concluded, “Another tax filing day has come, and the nearly one million Wisconsin taxpayers with student loan debt are paying more than they need to. There’s no more striking example than this of how Gov. Walker and his acolytes in the legislature continue to stick it to Wisconsin’s middle class.”