Tax credit would include students who pursued degrees not offered in Maine
AUGUSTA – A bill to expand the Maine Educational Opportunity Tax Credit earned initial support unanimously from both chambers of the Maine Legislature this week.
Under the measure sponsored by Rep. Justin Chenette, Maine residents who go to college in other New England states because their course of study is not available in Maine would be eligible for the Maine Educational Opportunity Tax Credit.
“This vote demonstrates that tackling the student loan debt crisis, currently crippling young Mainers’ ability to start their lives is something that transcends party affiliation,” said Chenette, D-Saco. “Together we can take this important step towards incentivizing young people to apply their new knowledge and skills in our state.”
The Maine Educational Opportunity Tax Credit, also known as Opportunity Maine, offers reimbursement to college graduates or their employers for student loan payments. Under the current rules, the graduate must have completed an associate or bachelor’s degree in Maine and must work in the state. As amended, the bill extends the tax credit to graduates who complete programs unavailable in Maine when they do so through the New England Board of Higher Education.
Due to a lack of students applying for the tax credit, existing funds can absorb a majority of the costs for this expansion, keeping any additional funding needed in the state budget at a low level.
“We must continue discussing creative ways to get at the root issue to ensure every person has the opportunity to better themselves through advancing his or her education.” said Chenette. “It’s time to get this funded.”
The bill, LD 898, faces further votes in the House and Senate.
Chenette, a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and represents part of Saco.
Co-sponsors to the bill include: Senator Justin Alfond of Cumberland, Senator Linda Valentino of York and Representatives: Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick, Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, Adam Goode of Bangor, Cathy Nadeau of Winslow, Matt Pouliot of Augusta, and Diane Russell of Portland.