Student Loan Debt Is No Laughing Matter
Last Thursday, I presented a bill before the Senate Taxes Committee establishing student and parent loan repayment tax credits. It is the same proposal I have presented before the committee in years past and is the same bipartisan proposal that was scaled down and included in the 2016 tax bill. As we look to get a compromise plan implemented in this year’s tax bill, I also re-introduced my larger $1.4 billion proposal this year to bring attention and continue the discussion on the need for student loan debt relief.
Unfortunately, the Republican committee chair did not take the time for this important discussion. After hearing powerful testimony and stories from just a handful of Minnesotans across the state the chair abruptly interrupted and ended testimony. There were several others who had come to testify who were prohibited from speaking—even though the committee adjourned with time to spare. The chair concluded the bill hearing by laughing and calling the discussion “simply not an honest attempt to discuss this issue.”
With all due respect, I am serious about this issue and so should the Legislature.
It is my hope that the Legislature passes the compromise reached last year while continuing the larger discussion on student loan debt. True, my bill does have a hefty price tag. But that total comes from the much larger burden of student loan debt shared by Minnesotans across our state. The sheer amount of student debt, now the second highest category of debt in our country, is shocking. Seeing the true cost and understanding the burden is not just a courtesy; it is our job.
Like similar Tax proposals, my bill is aimed at debating what level of commitment the Legislature plans to take on an overwhelming issue. It is not out of the norm for the Taxes Committee to hear scalable proposals aimed at highlighting the cost of an issue for Minnesotans to debate how much should be spent. Just this session, they have heard SF424 ($1 Billion), SF867 ($988 Million), and SF425 ($888 Million).
So no, I do not expect the Legislature to spend the entire surplus on student loan relief. But I do expect us to take this issue seriously, work in a bipartisan manner, and listen to the voices of the public, not cut them off and adjourn early.
I urge all students, educators, and Minnesotans to contact their elected officials and legislative leaders to make sure their concerns are taken seriously.
Senator Greg Clausen (DFL–Apple Valley) is a former educator and principal who now serves the 57th Senate District. He is the lead DFL member of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
The Rosemount Town Pages first published this column.