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Student and Family Tax Simplification Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, my friend from Michigan. I hope his solution here today, given the dysfunction that we have seen in the process coming out of this Congress in recent years, is not just to come forward with a series of permanent changes to the U.S. Tax Code without paying for any of it and exploding our national debt for future generations to have to grapple with, but unfortunately, that has been the trend in the Ways and Means Committee over the last couple of months.

I also want to commend the work that the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Black) has done with the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Danny K. Davis) in putting together this bipartisan bill.

I am all for simplification of the Tax Code. I am all for streamlining these tax credits to make it easier for students and their families to better afford higher education. I am all for finding a bipartisan path forward to make sure that no student is left behind, that those doors of educational opportunity are there and open for all Americans, but we ought to do that the right way, not the wrong way.

Unfortunately, the bill here before us today is the wrong way to approach the issue. First of all, it is one of 14 permanent changes to the Tax Code that have been reported out of the Ways and Means Committee now, exceeding over $800 billion, without any of it being offset and without a nickel of it being paid for--this on the heels of the last few years we have been trying to figure out a way to get our fiscal house put back in order.

There has been a whole lot of shrill and a whole lot of crying on this floor about runaway budget deficits and the unsustainable debt that our Nation has accumulated and the fact that we have to borrow so much money from China. This bill compounds that problem. It doesn't solve it.

This bill alone would add close to $97 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years. Again, none of it paid for, but there are also some substantive problems with this bill, too, that, unfortunately, due to a lack of hearings in the Ways and Means Committee, due to a lack of discussion and feedback from our universities throughout the country, is not addressed, not the least of which--and I have heard this from universities back in Wisconsin--that there is a significant administrative change hiding in this bill.

Currently, schools can report either eligible tuition charges that are billed to students or paid to students. This bill takes away the billing aspect of reporting to the IRS.

Now, that is probably a trend that we ought to pursue and should fix in the future, but to do it abruptly, given where the computer systems lie with their universities right now, is bound to cause severe disruption in regards to these tax credits for students.

I am afraid that it has not been well-vetted, and it hasn't been thought through because, again, it is an election year, and we are racing these bills to the floor in order to do our press releases back home and score cheap political points with constituencies that would prefer to see legislation advance without paying for it; but it is something that we ought to fix before we burden the bursars' offices throughout the Nation and trying to revamp their computer systems overnight. They are telling us it is not going to work.

Furthermore, the gentleman from Michigan has highlighted the impact this is going to have on our graduate students. The graduate students are affected by the streamlining of the education credits that are embodied in this bill because only 4 years are available under this legislation. It is expected to have a profound impact on the affordability of graduate education for students throughout the Nation. I don't think that has been vetted all that well either.

It is because we are not doing regular order around here. It is an election year--I get it--and there is nothing easier in the world to bring permanent changes to the Tax Code that everyone would desire to see, but without making the tough decision and paying for it as well, while at the same time coming forward with budget resolutions that is cutting back on the availability of Pell grants for low-income students or workstudy programs for low-income students or TRIO or GEAR UP programs that are geared for low-income students.


Mr. KIND. Somehow, some way, it became fashionable to cut those programs that have benefited low-income students, including myself. When I was a kid growing up, my family didn't have the financial means to send me to school, so I was able to qualify for a Pell grant, I did do workstudy all 4 years. Without that availability, I don't know where I would have ended up with my education.

That is where we seem to go to first in the budget for cuts and then coming forward today on a bill that will add $97 billion to the deficit without paying for it and without vetting it the way it should be. We have still got time. Let's do this right now.

I would encourage my colleagues to vote ``no'' and give this body time to fix some of the deficiencies in the bill, but also to make the tough decision and do it in a fiscally responsible manner.


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