Signs direct people toward tax help in the Iowa City public library on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. UI law students provide the free tax service to community members. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Guest Opinion: Tax-legislation possibilities hurt our future

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If the GOP tax plan passes, it will kill the American Dream of higher education for middle class students.

With both the House of Representatives and Senate passing versions of a tax plan, Congress will enter a conference to reconcile their differences in the legislation, then have both chambers vote on the revised version.

The House plan is projected to add $1.7 trillion to the national deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Senate plan is projected to add $1.4 billion, according to the CBO. Even the Joint Committee on Taxation found on Nov. 30 that the Senate bill only makes up for $400 billion of the $1.4 billion.

As the people who will be next to inherit the nation’s rampant debt, we should be outraged. This will be something that affects our generation and also those generations that follow us. To cut spending, to make up for this deficit, it will be very natural for current congressional leadership to go after programs such as Social Security and Medicare, programs that benefit those most vulnerable in our societies.

Though public higher education continues to be funded less and less by state legislatures, there still is some contribution of funding institutions such as the University of Iowa get from the state. Most recently, Iowa’s three state university presidents asked Gov. Kim Reynolds for $12 million for financial aid for undergraduate students. With provisions in both bills to limit state and local tax deductions, this legislation can put pressure on state budgets that fund higher education by having less support for state taxes that support public universities and community colleges.

RELATED: Regents to request $12 million to fund financial aid for resident undergrads

The tax legislation from both chambers affects the ways in which taxpayers donate to charity. This is especially challenging given that, as mentioned above, states are continuing to divest from public education at larger rates. With the doubling of the standard deduction, colleges and universities will have tougher times raising funds for items such as scholarships and infrastructure.

Finally, though only present in the House bill currently, the threats to graduate education still loom. The House legislation proposes eliminating Section 117(d)5 of the tax code, which allows for tuition waivers and remission to be defined as non-taxable income. Under the House bill, those become taxable income. In other words, money I never see as a graduate student will become part of my tax bill as part of my “income.” Those of us who are research assistants, teaching assistants, instructors, tutors, and part-/full-time administrators may need to bid our degree programs farewell as our 200 percent tax increases make it unaffordable to get our degrees.

RELATED: Guest Opinion: GOP tax plan disadvantages graduate students

As the economy continues to call for a more educated workforce, this tax plan puts up more barriers for that educated workforce to become possible beyond those most wealthy to afford higher education. If everyone is truly to have “their American dream,” we need tax legislation that allows for that. That legislation is possible and can even be popular. However, whatever tax legislation that will emerge from the congressional conference this week will be a dream-killer.

I strongly encourage all of us to take 10 minutes out of our finals prep to call Reps. Ron Blum, Steve King, Dave Loebsack, and David Young and as well as Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley to stop this legislation and call for a new version that benefits all in the U.S., not just some.

—Alex  C. Lange

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