2020 Senate Race Montana Politics Steve Daines

Steve Daines Also Massively Increased Taxes on Financial Aid for College Students

Fresh on the heels of the news that Steve Daines helped pass a massive tax hike on Gold Star families who lost a loved one served in our armed forces (something we were the only Montana outlet to cover, by the way) comes the news that the tax bill he enthusiastically endorsed also massively increased taxes on financial aid for college students.

The New York Times reports that the 2017 Republican tax bill has caused some students to face 37% tax rates for components of their financial aid packages:

A little-noticed provision in President Trump’s sprawling new tax law is treating middle- and low-income college students as if they are trust-fund babies, taxing sizable financial aid packages at a rate first established 33 years ago to prevent wealthy parents from funneling money to their children to lower their tax burdens.

Higher-education leaders are calling on Congress to fix the provision, which drastically raised the tax rate on so-called unearned income for children with assets and young adults in school. Students with large financial aid packages are finding their nontuition assistance for items such as room and board taxed by as much as 37 percent, even if their family income tax rates are much lower.

For some students, that has meant a tripling of their tax rates:

In the past, a student from a household with a joint income of $50,000 who was awarded a scholarship that covered $11,500 in room and board would be taxed at their parents’ rate of 12 percent. Under the new law, that money would be taxed up to 35 percent.

The tax scam Republicans in the Congress and President Trump foisted on the American public just keeps claiming more victims. First, it was the national debt, which has ballooned with reduced tax revenue. Next, it was Gold Star families and college students. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the impact on Indian Country.

Once again, Republicans in Congress are claiming that these casualties were unintended, but that is no excuse and cold comfort to those facing tax hikes. Back in November 2017, CNBC was reporting that Republican staffers were writing the bill only hours before the vote and USA Today describes the hastily-written, handwritten provisions that Senator Tester so effectively and rightly mocked at the time.

All of which takes us back to Senator Daines. While he was not apparently investigating the impact on Montana families, he was poring over his financial statements and worked diligently to craft a bill that would benefit him, going so far as to threaten the entire Republican proposal if he didn’t get his massive kickback:

Republican Montana Senator Steve Daines, whose net worth hit $14.4 million in 2015, also joins the pass-through party. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Daines invested over $10.5 million in real estate in a single year. U.S. Senate records listed his partnership income between $485,000 and $4.2 million in 2016. As the IBT reported, Daines pushed for even more cuts on this tax but had to settle for an extra $900,000 or so in free money.

The Republican claim that these were unavoidable errors strains credulity to the breaking point. Daines and the other Republican Senators were incredibly attentive when it came to their financial interests and were either entirely uninterested in the families they harmed or even willing to choose to do them harm to shift more money into the grasping hands of a few oligarchs.

These are the kinds of stories that need to be covered in the 2020 Senate race. While Steve Daines has worked in D.C. to increase his riches and has, through malice or malfeasance, harmed Montana families, too many new pieces focus on a border two thousand miles away or the political theater that passes for leadership in his office.

Montanans deserve to know that Senator Daines is only looking out for himself in D.C., consequences for the rest of us be damned.

And they shouldn’t have to read this blog to know it.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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