Richmond, VA - For anyone who has been sold a bill of goods by the Allen campaign today on his “record” of support for students – here are five things you should know about George Allen’s real record on affordable and accessible higher education. It’s no wonder the Allen campaign continues to cherry pick and ignore the undeniable trend: as Senator and as Governor, George Allen had no problem with, and in fact advocated for, massive cuts to student aid, and prioritized special interests over the well-being of Virginia students.
1. As public college tuition rose by more than 40 percent nationwide, then-Senator George Allen was a critical vote for the largest cut to student financial aid in the nation’s history. The measure was approved 50-50, with the Vice President voting to break the tie.
2. As Governor, George Allen proposed cuts to higher education that were so deep, a bipartisan group of former governors and business leaders formed to put a stop to the proposal.
3. In the Senate, Allen voted to preserve tax giveaways to Big Oil at the expense of tax deductions for students.
4. Allen broke with members of his own party to vote to kick more than 84,000 students off of Pell Grants.
5. As student loan rates are set to double on more than 177,000 Virginia students without action by the federal government, George Allen has called the government's role in higher education “secondary” and "backseat."
ALLEN WAS CRITICAL VOTE FOR LARGEST CUT TO STUDENT AID IN HISTORY
2005: Allen Was Critical Vote for Largest Student Loan Cuts in History. Allen voted for the final version of the 2005 budget reconciliation bill, which cut $12.7 billion from college loans, the largest cuts to the student loan program in its history. The measure was approved 50-50, with the Vice President voting to break the tie. [Vote 363, 12/21/05, CQ Floor Votes; AP, 12/19/05; Washington Post, 12/19/05]
The Washington Post: “And In One Of The Most Controversial Provisions, The Agreement Would Shave $12.7 Billion Out Of The Federal Student Loan Program.”The Washington Post reported, “And in one of the most controversial provisions, the agreement would shave $12.7 billion out of the federal student loan program, in large part by locking in interest rates often at a higher level than the current variable rates. ‘This bill is the largest raid on student aid in history. At a time when millions of American families are struggling to keep up with skyrocketing tuition costs, it is shameful for Congress to raid student aid in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans,’ said Rep. George Miller (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House education committee.” [Washington Post, 12/19/05]
AP: “The Student Loan Program Would Endure The Largest Cut In Its History.” The AP reported, “As Congress moves to slash $40 billion in spending, no program will take a bigger hit than college loans, where almost $13 billion would be cut over five years. . . . [O]verall, the student loan program would endure the largest cut in its history, and most of the money would not be pumped back into education.” [AP, 12/19/05]
GROUP OF BIPARTISAN FORMER GOVERNORS AND BUSINESS LEADERS FORMED IN OPPOSITION TO ALLEN’S PROPOSED HIGHER ED CUTS
1995: The Virginia Business Higher Education Council Was Formed To Defeat Allen’s Plan To Cut Higher Education Funding. An article by Warren Fiske, which appeared in both the Roanoke Times and the Virginian-Pilot, detailed Allen’s failed effort to pass a $2.1 billion tax cut at the expense of higher education and other priorities. The article stated, “The governor wanted to save $ 150 million by slicing education funding, 1,100 state jobs, police protection and a number of popular social programs such as ‘Meals on Wheels’ for senior citizens. . . . Momentum to defeat Allen's plan grew slowly. . . . The decisive blows to Allen, however, did not come from constituent letters, polls or backroom meetings in the Capitol. Instead, the knockout came from corporate boardrooms, where a group of the state's most influential businessmen united against the governor. Calling itself the Virginia Business-Higher Education Council, the group formed in late 1993 out of concern that Virginia colleges were slowly being gutted by budget cuts. During the recession, the legislature had sliced $ 400 million from higher education to balance the state budget. As a result, tuitions in Virginia climbed to the second-highest in the nation. The businessmen feared that soaring costs would make college education inaccessible. They had been hoping, as the state's economy began to improve, that money would be restored to universities. When Allen proposed an additional $ 47 million cut to higher education, the group jumped into action. . . . The group's opposition was a blow to Republicans. About two-thirds of the group's members had contributed substantial sums to Allen's 1993 gubernatorial campaign. Now, many of the same people were standing up at budget hearings and all but accusing the governor of inventing a financial crisis to further his political ambitions. In private, the group was promising help for friendly legislators who encountered election-year problems because they opposed the tax cut. The coup, however, was achieved by [John] Hazel. Working behind the scenes, he persuaded three former governors - Republicans Godwin and Linwood Holton and Democrat Gerald Baliles - to sign a letter deploring the cuts to higher education. The release of the letter on Feb. 1 provided the final measure of protection to Democrats worried about bucking the governor.” [Roanoke Times, 2/26/95; Virginian-Pilot, 2/27/95]
ALLEN VOTED FOR BIG OIL TAX BREAKS AT EXPENSE OF STUDENT TAX DEDUCTIONS
2006: Allen Voted For Tax Bill That Benefited The Wealthy And Oil Companies, While Raising Taxes For Students. In May 2006, Allen voted for the final version of the $70 billion tax reconciliation bill, which removed a provision that had allowed taxpayers to deduct up to $4000 of college tuition. The tuition deduction was included in earlier versions of the bill but was stripped in the final version. The tuition deduction could have been paid for by reducing a tax break for oil companies. Meanwhile, the tax bill Allen supported would only save middle income Americans $20 each while the top tenth of 1 percent (whose average income is $5.3 million) would save $82,415. The bill was adopted (thus cleared for the president) by a vote of 54-44. Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich voted against the bill. [Vote 118, 5/11/06, CQ Floor Votes; CNNMoney.com, 5/11/06]
GOP Tax Reconciliation Bill “Does Not Contain A Provision Allowing Taxpayers To Deduct Up To $4,000 Of College Tuition.” The Hill reported on “the GOP-sponsored tax reconciliation bill that does not contain a provision allowing taxpayers to deduct up to $4,000 of college tuition.” [The Hill, 5/11/06]
GOP Tax Reconciliation Bill Removed The Extension Of Tuition Deduction, Which Would Have Been Paid For By Reducing A Tax Break For Oil Companies. CNNMoney.com reported, “The Senate on Thursday passed a GOP-supported final tax reconciliation bill . . . With the exception of some popular provisions like AMT relief, many elements in the reconciliation bill have been sharply criticized by Democrats and some moderate Republicans. They contend some of the tax breaks, especially the extension of the investment tax rates, are too costly and benefit too few taxpayers - namely, upper-income ones. Democrats also have objected to the removal of an extension for tuition deduction, which they say could have been paid for if tax writers had left in a provision that would have reduced a key tax break for oil companies, which would have raised $4.3 billion in revenue.” [CNNMoney.com, 5/11/06]
ALLEN VOTED TO CUT PELL GRANTS
2003: Allen Favored Cutting Off Pell Grant Eligibility For 84,000 Lower-Income Students. Allen, on September 10, 2003, voted against an amendment to prohibit the Education Department from changing the way it determines student aid eligibility for Pell Grants. The change that the department intended to implement would have caused 84,000 college students to lose their eligibility for Pell Grants for the 2004-05 school year. The amendment would prohibit funds in the bill from being used to implement recent Department of Education changes to financial aid eligibility formulas. According to CQ.com, the amendment would also “provide $137.6 billion in discretionary spending in fiscal 2004 for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments and related agencies.” The amendment was adopted by a vote of 51-44, with 6 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 1 Independent voting in favor. [Vote 339, 9/10/03; CQ Floor Votes, Congressional Quarterly Today, 9/10/03]
ALLEN CALLED FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S ROLE IN HIGHER ED “SECONDARY” AND “BACKSEAT”
Allen: “The Federal Government Has A Backseat Role In Education.” [Brian & Marie Radio Show, 6/08/12]
Allen Said The Cost Of Higher Education Is A “Secondary” Priority For The Federal Government.In a Republican Senate primary debate, Allen was asked, “Do you think that the issue of college debt is a federal issue or should it not be a federal issue?” Allen responded, “Education is primarily the responsibility of state and local government. . . . I think at the federal level there can be assistance but it is secondary…” [RPVA Senate Primary Debate, 5/25/12]