Stabenow to wear button backing college grads in debt

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and other Democratic members of Congress will be wearing red buttons Tuesday night during President Barack Obama’s final State of the State address in support of college graduates “deep in the red in debt.”

The buttons containing the social media hashtag #InTheRed are part of an effort by Senate Democrats to draw attention to the nation’s $1.3 trillion in student debt and spur congressional action.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and other Democrats will wear buttons during President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

Stabenow, D-Lansing, and other Democrats want the Republican-controlled Senate to consider their proposal to provide free community college, add an inflationary annual increase to Pell Grants for low-income students and refinance interest rates on federal student loans at 3.86 percent.

The interest on federal student loans ranges from 4 to 5 percent, Stabenow said.

“We are way past time doing something about that,” she said of reining in the post-graduation burden of student loan debt.

Stabenow’s guest at Tuesday’s State of the Union will be Tina Reyes, a 21-year-old political science major at Michigan State University.

In a media conference call with Stabenow on Tuesday morning, Reyes said she will be graduating with $100,000 in student loan debt.

“I’m going to graduate with a lot of debt, and I have no idea how I’m going to pay it off,” said Reyes, a resident of Flint who working this semester as an unpaid intern for U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township.

Stabenow said the plan would cost $120 billion over 10 years and would be paid for by closing a “loophole” in the U.S. tax code that allows companies to lower their tax burden by moving assets to a parent company based overseas.

Democrats also want to close the “Buffett rule” that allows millionaires and billionaires such as investment tycoon Warren Buffett to pay an effective tax rate below 30 percent on their earnings through deductions and capital gains income taxed at a lower rate than paycheck earnings, Stabenow said.

“It is fully paid for,” she said.

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