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Rep. Mike Bost signs letter opposing plan to tax graduate stipends

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CARBONDALE — As the ever-evolving GOP tax plan makes its way through the two chambers of the U.S. legislature on its way to President Donald Trump's desk, many, including U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, are asking that two education provisions be left untouched under the new tax bill.

Bost, of Murphysboro, who represents the 12th District of Illinois, signed a letter Dec. 7 with more than 20 other representatives asking the writers of the tax bill to maintain two portions of the Internal Revenue Code relating to education.

First, the letter asks that Section 117(d), which allows employers to exclude qualified tuition reductions as income, remain intact. The letter said were this to change, it would “raise the barrier of entry to college for many individuals.” It said this could create a burden on taxpayers whose only way of attending college is with these tuition breaks.

The second request asks that the tax plan's writers maintain Section 127 of the IRC, which “incentivizes employees to accept tax-free educational assistance from employers to further the employees’ education and obtain skills to thrive in the workforce.” The letter goes on to ask not only that this provision be maintained, but also expanded to include “employees who have already accumulated student loan debt.”

The letter points out that seven in 10 college seniors graduate with student loan debt, which now represents the second highest form of consumer debt.

“This debt harms our economy because it prevents many young adults from buying a house, purchasing a car or saving for retirement,” the letter states.

Graduate and Professional Student Council President Johnathan Flowers said seeing that Bost signed a letter of support for graduate students is “a welcome change from his previous position” of coming late to the fight, particularly for education.

Flowers said graduate education is something Bost should be “extremely concerned with," due to the fact that Southern Illinois University is in his district. He said he wonders what it means for the rest of Bost’s term.

Graduate students from SIU staged a walkout in November to protest a House version of tax reform that would have taxed graduate student stipends.

“My main concern is, is this a one-time action on behalf of Bost, or does this signal becoming a true advocate of higher education, particularly SIU, in the future?” Flowers asked. He said he hopes for the latter.

“But I am not holding my breath,” he said.

In an emailed statement Thursday, Bost said that restructuring the tax code is no simple thing; however, he was adamant that Southern Illinoisans have input in the process.

“... it’s vitally important that the voices of my constituents are represented in the final product,” Bost said.

Bost said his decision to back this request came out of his support of students.

“It is critical that our young people have the means to get an education, jumpstart a career, and help build a brighter future for Southern Illinois,” Bost said. “I’ve heard from many Southern Illinoisans who depend on the tuition waiver, and I wanted to do my part to try and ensure it remains intact.”

Republicans are hoping a complete version of the compromise tax bill will pass both the House and Senate and be sent to the president by Christmas.


On Twitter: @ismithreports


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