The bill would create a Wisconsin Student Loan Refinancing Authority, and the organization would design a system to buy federal and private loans for refinancing. The bill also would allow people to deduct student loan payments from their income taxes.
However, the pair of Democrats sponsoring the bill – Rep. Cory Mason, Racine and Sen. Dave Hansen, Green Bay – face an uphill battle in getting it passed through Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated legislature. A similar version of the bill has already failed twice. Last session, the idea failed to pass the Assembly, and last week, a proposal was voted down on a party-line vote in the Joint Finance Committee.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has also panned the idea, saying another layer of government bureaucracy is not a solution. Instead, he said he would like to see people turn to the state’s private financial institutions for help with refinancing.
Mason and Hansen, though, said they believe they can get bipartisan support for some version of the bill. Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, indicated Republican lawmakers could get behind the income-tax deduction.
Since the last session, Wisconsin has seen the number of people with student loans swell to 815,000 from 753,000, with the average debt for those with a bachelor’s degree climbing to roughly $29,000.
And, it is not just a problem among recent graduates. Scot Ross, executive director of the public policy group One Wisconsin Now, noted 15 percent of student debt is held by people who are more than 50 years old. In 2014, he said 155,000 seniors had their Social Security payments garnished because of student loans.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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