I’ll admit, I sometimes fall into the typical partisan trap of automatically assuming I’m not going to agree with legislation proposed by a non-Republican. While I don’t agree with many decisions made by Senator Angus King (I-ME), in this case, he’s got it right.
When I saw the Bangor Daily News article “Angus King bill targets tragic tax on parents, if their child dies with college debt,” I wasn’t sure what to think. In some ways, reading about Senator Angus King’s Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act was a wakeup call to myself to not be so politically short-sighted. The article, and the bill itself, is thought provoking and powerful.
Senator Angus King is sponsoring the bill in response to what the Brennens of Topsham experienced after they lost their 22-year-old son, Keegan. While their child’s college student loans were forgiven, the Brennens are still haunted by the enormous tax penalties imposed by the IRS as a result of this loan forgiveness. The bill put forward by Senator King “would exempt any federal or private student loan discharged because of the death of a child or total and permanent disability from income taxes. It would also allow a parent whose child develops a total and permanent disability to qualify for student loan discharge.”
It’s events like this, or pieces of legislation like this, one doesn’t often think about. But sometimes you need lawmakers to pass legislation due to obscure, unique or even tragic circumstances. The events that led to this bill are tragic, and my heart goes out to the Brennen family. No bill or amount of loan forgiveness will ever replace a child, but the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act would at least eliminate this unnecessary burden on families.
Sadly, this issue is very personal for me. Earlier this year, I lost a very close friend of mine. He was a senior at Bates who was about the same age as Keegan. His death was sudden and unexpected, and it rattled the entire Bates community. The whole campus grieved and mourned the loss of my great friend. I don’t know what his financial status with student loans was, or if he had any at all. Whatever his loans standing was, I pray his family isn’t among the 150,000 people impacted by this unconscionable law.
The bipartisan nature of this bill speaks volumes of its importance. This bill is sponsored by Senator King (I-ME) and co-sponsored by Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Coons (D-DE). With the polarization of Congress coupled with the cacophony of the 2016 election cycle dominating the American political agenda, it’s refreshing to see partisan ideological differences put aside and to prioritize the well-being of Americans.
So thank you Senator King (and Senator Portman and Senator Coons) for ignoring partisan politics and putting forward legislation that has the power to really make a difference for grieving families around the country. The last thing grieving families deserve is a bill from Uncle Sam.