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Wis. student loan bill well-received at hearing

  • Associated Press
  • February 6, 2014 - 10:35 AM

MADISON, Wis. — A Democratic bill that would allow more than 750,000 residents to refinance student loans received strong support during a hearing, but its chances for passage are uncertain with one top Republican lawmaker expressing doubts about it.

The bill would allow borrowers to refinance loans at lower interest rates and deduct up to $6,500 annually on state income tax returns, Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1b595Rb ) Thursday.

The bill's sponsors, Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said student debt hurts the state economy by hampering car and home buying.

"We're promoting the brain gain as opposed to the brain drain," Hansen said.

Hansen said the first-of-its-kind bill would encourage students to stay in Wisconsin upon graduation.

Jennifer Hussli, a family practice doctor in Janesville, said at the hearing that she and her husband spend $20,000 annually on student loan interest.

"Considering this bill is critical at this time," Hussli said.

Another student said the cost of added student loan debt made her reconsider going to law school.

Hansen's bill would create the Wisconsin Student Loan Refinancing Authority, a group that would be similar to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

But John Reinemann, an executive secretary with the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board, said while he likes some aspects of the bill, he's concerned the bill would promote higher borrowing for college.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he has doubts about the bill too.

Fitzgerald said his caucus is considering multiple bills on student loan debt, but that Hansen and Mason's so-called "Higher Ed, Lower Debt" bill would "probably not" be successful.

© 2014 Star Tribune