A bipartisan bill that would have taken a substantial bite out of Minnesota's bloated student debt problem has fizzled.
House Republicans killed a proposal that would have covered tuition and other fees that typically stand in the way of high-achieving students attending college, like room and board. The plan also granted a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year on student loan debt.
Rep. Jon Applebaum (DFL-Minnetonka) and Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls), the Republican chair of the higher education policy and finance committee, co-wrote the bill. But it was aborted by fellow Republicans before it could reach a vote by the full legislature.
"There really wasn't a reason given," said a frazzled Applebaum on Friday. "The conversation was very productive, I thought. The higher education chairman decided to hear it. Instead of suggesting changes in a form they would have preferred, they voted it down, effectively ending all conversation."
With a budget surplus of $1.9 billion, Republicans and Democrats are split on how to spend it. Keith Downey, GOP chair, recently released a video asking the state to give the surplus back in the form of $350 per person.
Applebaum, a 30-year-old who spent the majority of his life in school, wanted to focus it on reducing Minnesota's student debt. According to USA Today, it's currently fourth highest in the nation, with 70 percent of the class of 2012 owing a whopping average of $31,497.
"Knocking around my district, there are 30-, 40-year-old people who are still living in their parents' house because student debt precludes them from getting their own lives started," he said. "It's crippling our economy, and the fact that Republicans killed this proposal really showed their true colors about not wanting to help students, working families and young people."
With one bill for reducing Minnesota's student debt dead in the water, it falls on Nornes to get the ball rolling on some other ideas. Any day now.
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