Democrats on the legislature’s budget committee made an unsuccessful push Tuesday for creating a Wisconsin Student Loan Refinancing Authority.
The proposed amendment to the state budget would have created a state board that could help individuals pay off student loan debt, by giving them access to state-backed refinancing options. More than a half million Wisconsin residents are believed to have some amount of student loan debt, and state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) argued that it greatly impacts their ability to contribute to the state’s economy. “They don’t have the disposable income to spend in our economy, and so what that does is really slow down our economy,” Taylor said.
With national student loan debt estimated to be above the $1.2 trillion mark, Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) noted that “it’s become an issue that deserves more attention. This could be a big step for us today by saying student loan debt is a priority.”
Majority Republicans on the budget-writing panel were skeptical though. Hudson Rep. Dean Knudson pointed out that there’s no guarantee the state could get anyone a better rate. “You are just plain pandering to people that are unhappy and upset, and rightly so, at the cost of their student loans.”
JFC co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) also noted that the discussion may be better focused on encouraging students to study in fields that are career ready out of college. “The degree, the field that they choose, is probably even more significant than any other conversation or any other subsidy that we can provide,” the Marinette Republican said. “If they’re not going into the fields that actually have job opportunities, there is no ability to be able to pay back that student debt.”
The proposal, which was similar to previously introduced legislation, failed on a party-line vote.