A measure that could provide immediate tax relief for some students who consolidate their college loans cleared the Legislature Friday. The vote in the House was 132-12 and 32-0 in the Senate. It now goes to the governor for his signature.
The proposal from Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, would prevent students who consolidated their loans from being cut off from the Opportunity Maine tax credit. McCreight’s measure was recently incorporated into a larger student debt relief bill sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and the governor.

The Opportunity Maine credit, enacted in 2008, was designed to make post-secondary education more affordable and reduce the burden of monthly student loan payments. Students who incur debt at a Maine institution are eligible for the credit, but some have lost access after consolidating their eligible loans with loans from out-of-state schools.

“Students who get part of their education out of state and then come back to Maine should be welcomed with open arms,” said McCreight. “If this bill is signed, we will stop discouraging a smart financial choice like consolidation, and more young people will be better able to support themselves and prosper.”

McCreight’s reform would restore access immediately, allowing people to claim the Opportunity Maine credit on their 2015 returns and receive immediate relief.
McCreight submitted her original bill after hearing from Emma Burke, a former student who said she and many of her peers are finding it more difficult to get by or plan for major life expenses like buying a home or having children, even with a good-paying job.

“My monthly student loan payments simply make it impossible for me to have any type of savings,” said Burke at the bill’s public hearing last month. “Mainers who have gone to school out of state, or who have pursued an advanced degree, should not be punished for doing so.”

McCreight is serving her first term in the Maine House and represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick.

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