Crossposted with the Huffington Post:
On Wednesday the students of Maine won an amazing victory. Opportunity Maine is a citizen ballot initiative that will provide a tax credit to all graduates of Maine colleges to offset their student loan repayment for each year they stay in the state. Employers can also take the tax credit to pay off their employees' student loans.
The state currently experiences a bad brain drain. The "creative class" effects of having more college grads around will benefit Maine's tax base by $14 million in 2018, more than paying for the measure, according to one economic analysis.
What's really cool is that this victory belongs to a very professional, focused and dedicated coalition of students and community members, both Opportunity Maine and the League of Young Voters. They worked over the Maine winter with hundreds of volunteers to gather 73,000 signatures to get the measure considered. Then instead of putting it to the voters, the Maine Legislature and Senate passed the bill outright. The Legislature voted unanimously - 142-0.
I was up in Augusta last month testifying before the Taxation Committee in support of this bill, so I'm pretty proud to see it passed. Even facing budget difficulties, Maine has chosen to take a step to help both students and its economy. Federal reforms are very important, but college costs also need to be dealt with on a community basis.