Weekly Radio Address: Sen. Libby urges student debt relief for Maine

Posted: July 28, 2017 | Weekly Radio Address
At $1.4 trillion, Americans owe more for student loans than credit card or auto debt. That heavy load is taking a toll on our economy and our future.
Hi, this is Senator Nate Libby from Lewiston. Thanks for listening.
I have visited more than a dozen communities all over our state to talk with Mainers about the challenges and opportunities ahead for our state. Everywhere I went, people identified student debt as one of the biggest hurdles facing their families and our state. It wasn’t only students and graduates themselves, either; Parents and grandparents understood that student debt was holding back their loved ones and our state — preventing both from reaching their full potential for success and prosperity.
This year, we have the opportunity to take bold action to address the student debt crisis. We can stimulate our economy and unleash the power of an entire generation that’s been held back from their dreams and their futures.
I have introduced legislation that would provide real relief to student debt holders who live and work in Maine, whether they’re new to our state or have been here their whole lives. It would provide tens of millions of dollars to forgive residents’ student debt by having the state make payments on their behalf. Eligible Mainers could receive assistance equaling up to 15 percent of their total debt burden per year.
I believe that smart investments in our economy and its people can pay dividends that benefit all of us. But I also believe in personal responsibility. So this program comes with strings attached. If Maine’s going to invest in your education and your skills, you should use that education and those skills to benefit the people of Maine. So if taxpayers help you cover your student debt, you must agree to stay here and work here for at least five years.
The average student debt load in Maine is nearly $30,000, with many Mainers owing far more than that. In Scarborough, I met a parent whose daughter had to move out of state to find a job that allowed her to make her $900 student loan payment every month. Her story is far too common.
The departure of young people hurts our state’s future, but student debt is a drag on our economy even when graduates choose to stay. With monthly loan payments in the hundreds of dollars, many young people are unable to save for their futures, and are putting off their dreams of homeownership, entrepreneurship or starting families.
Debt forgiveness will put more money in Mainers’ pockets, so they can save for their first home, start a new small business or otherwise participate in our local economy.
This bill has bipartisan support, and I’ve found an unlikely ally in Gov. Paul LePage. The governor and I certainly don’t always see eye to eye, but he understands the need to address this crisis. We won majority support in initial votes in the Legislature. But many Republicans still oppose this bill, and its final passage is not guaranteed.
I believe that if Mainers reach out to their elected officials in Augusta, we can pass this law. We can pass real, substantial student debt relief for our residents, our economy and our future.
This is Senator Nate Libby of Lewiston. Thanks for tuning in.