June 20th, 2007
Contact: Brian Hiatt, firstname.lastname@example.org, (207)772.3207
MAINE LAWMAKERS PASS INNOVATIVE STUDENT DEBT RELIEF SOLUTIONEdit
The groundbreaking Opportunity Maine initiative to make college more affordable in Maine has been overwhelmingly approved by legislators and will be signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci.
Brooklyn, New York — The League of Young Voters is proud to announce a major legislative win for its Maine affiliate and the Opportunity Maine PAC, of which the League is a founding partner. Maine’s Legislature passed a groundbreaking solution to the problem of student debt – that is vexing every state in the nation – by approving the Opportunity Maine initiative today.
With the passage of Opportunity Maine, any person who graduates from a Maine college or university – and then lives and works in Maine thereafter – is eligible for a tax credit to assist paying back their student loans.
“This is an exciting day for all of us who have worked to make college more affordable, create job opportunities, and grow Maine’s economy,” according to Andrew Bossie, President of Opportunity Maine. “Today’s passage of Opportunity Maine is a testament to the thousands of volunteer hours spent collecting signatures and lobbying lawmakers. We now face a new and exciting challenge: to educate Mainers about this wonderful new opportunity to make their education more affordable and their futures much brighter.”
Opportunity Maine will also help workers who have lost their jobs and need re-education for Maine’s rapidly shifting industrial and employment climate. Moreover, businesses will also have the option of claiming the tax credit for employees they hire that are themselves eligible for the tax credit.
Opportunity Maine launched its signature gathering campaign in late September 2006 with an ambitious goal. A grassroots network of student and community volunteers collected over 70,000 signatures – more than enough to put the question on the November 2007 ballot if it came to that. In Maine, the Legislature has the opportunity to pass outright any citizens initiative before sending it to the voters. This has happened only five times before today when Maine’s elected leaders thought the Opportunity Maine solution was so needed that they did just that with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“Young people, community leaders, and our elected officials have spoken decisively! Together we have put Maine on a long-term path toward economic and workforce development,” says Justin Alfond, the League of Young Voters Maine State Director and Opportunity Maine Steering Committee Member. “The League and Opportunity Maine are eager to get the Opportunity program in front of every high school student and guidance counselor, current college student, worker’s center and teacher’s association statewide.” Currently, Maine has 30% fewer degree holders than the rest of New England. Maine’s average income also lags 30% behind the rest of New England. At the same time, the burden of student debt has skyrocketed in recent years, leading either to crippling life-long debt, or a real – or perceived – inability to pursue higher education.
Opportunity Maine was formed to reverse those trends. The initiative was endorsed by labor and business councils, organizations, and leaders across the state as well as the University of Maine System.
“Opportunity Maine is a historic victory and a breath of fresh air for young people everywhere,” says Billy Wimsatt, Executive Director of the League of Young Voters. “It’s a quadruple play: it makes college affordable, addresses brain drain, pays for itself so the business community and labor are both on board and it ultimately brings money into the state of Maine. For students, families and jobs, this is an incredible ground breaking model that can be replicated in other states. With record high costs for pursuing a higher education, Opportunity Maine is the biggest victory to relieve student debt this generation has seen.”
Opportunity Maine and the League of Young Voters will announce a formal press conference and signing ceremony in the coming days.
For a background briefing or to schedule an interview with a spokesperson, contact Brian Hiatt at 207.772.3207 or email@example.com
More information about Opportunity Maine, including Issue Briefs and various other reports, can be found at www.opportunitymaine.org