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Lawmakers kick off budget debate, consider student loan tax credit

The Michigan state capitol building
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Michigan Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan

Debate over the state budget is underway in Lansing.

State lawmakers held their first budget hearings Thursday, a day after Governor Rick Snyder laid out his plan to fund state government into next year.

One of the first issues being discussed comes from a Democrat. The proposal from state Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, would give recent college graduates a tax break for staying in Michigan.

“What is the sense of continuing to subsidize education if we continue to see a flow of students out of the state of Michigan? It makes no sense at all,” said Anderson. “It’s not a good investment for us if we’re not doing anything to retain them here.”

The plan would affect students who graduate from a four-year college or university in Michigan. They could get up to half of what they pay in student loans back when they file their yearly income taxes.

Some Republicans in the state Senate say any tax breaks should be distributed more evenly among Michigan residents.

Otherwise, the hearings focused on the governor’s call to boost funding for K-12 and higher education. His budget plan includes a 3% increase for public schools and about a 6% increase for colleges and universities.

Those figures appear to have support among lawmakers sitting on budget panels.

“I can’t really speak for the House, but most likely the Senate will stay with the 6.1% increase,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees higher education funding.

Michigan college and university officials say that kind of increase would help them control tuition costs. But they say it’s not enough to offset years of inadequate state funding.