Monday, July 2, 2007

Maine Gov. John Baldacci Signs Groundbreaking Student Debt Relief Program Into Law

Opportunity Maine and The League of Young Voters announce an aggressive and comprehensive education and public awareness campaign

AUGUSTA — Governor John Baldacci signed LD 1856, Opportunity Maine, into law today at the Statehouse in Augusta, Maine. The groundbreaking initiative is the first of its kind in the country and promises to be a model for other states seeking to educate and retain a sustainable workforce.

The passage of Opportunity Maine will allow any person who goes to school in Maine, and then agrees to live and work in Maine, to take a tax credit to help pay their student loans. Or, any Maine company who hires a Maine graduate can take the credit if they assume the former students’ loan debt.

“Opportunity Maine is a perfect example of how simple conversations can effect real change. Last year, we mobilized 500 volunteers to collect 73,000 signatures, At the same time, we spoke to 73,000 Mainers about the problem of student debt and the importance of growing a sustainable workforce,” said Andrew Bossie, president of Opportunity Maine. “Then we talked to lawmakers who overwhelmingly agreed that Opportunity Maine can be a solution.”

While Opportunity Maine was prepared to go to referendum, the Maine Legislature had the opportunity to pass the legislation outright. The Maine House of Representatives did so unanimously while the Senate approved the measure 27-8.

Opportunity Maine announced today that, while they won’t be waging a “get out the vote campaign,” they will launch a comprehensive program to educate Mainers about the new program and get them signed-up.

“By enacting our innovative policy that connects debt relief to job growth and economic development, Maine offers the most promising solution to affordable education an entire generation has seen,” said Justin Alfond, Maine State Director of The League of Young Voters. “Today is a remarkable day, but where we go from here is the most exciting part. The eyes of the nation are on Maine as we build the Opportunity Maine program starting today.”

This is the first legislation of its kind in the nation — no other student debt relief program is as far reaching. Moreover, this is only the sixth time in the history of Maine that a Citizen’s Initiative has been passed outright by the Legislature.

“We’re pleased that Maine lawmakers have sent a very loud message to the people of Maine, that they value a good education and that they want people to be able to live and raise their families right here if that’s what they want to do,” said Tony Giampetruzzi, Opportunity Maine Communications Director. “The long term benefits of this program are exciting, and we intend to make sure that everyone, from graduating seniors to those who need re-education, it able to gain from it for many years to come.”

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