Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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Nelson, Rubio split on student loan rates
Posted May 8, 2012 by William March
Updated May 8, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Florida’s two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, split along party lines just like the rest of the Senate on a vote today in which GOP senators blocked a measure that would have prevented student loan interest rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
Republicans including Rubio said they support preventing the rate increase, but objected to the way the legislation paid for it—by applying Medicare taxes to upper-income business owners who currently avoid those taxes by classifying their income as dividends rather than salary.
“I support a hundred percent making sure that the interest rates on student loans do not go up,” Rubio said in a news release. “I cannot support the way the Democrats want to do it, however, because, they want to do it by raising taxes on small businesses, very small businesses.”
Nelson and other Democrats have sought to highlight the issue, which they believe put Republicans in a box.
Republicans could either vote against the bill, appearing to favor a sharp interest rate hike on the loans many families depend; or they could vote for a measure identified as a tax increase by Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform. That group, highly influential on Republican legislators, has sponsored a no-tax-increase pledge that many Republicans have signed.
Nelson held a publicized town hall meeting with students last week at the University of South Florida to discuss the issue. Monday, members of Florida’s College Democrats organizations in several college towns including Tampa held demonstrations at Rubio’s field offices in those cities.
Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Brannon Jordan said Rubio “has again put the interests of the Tea Party ahead of Florida’s families,” and state College Dems President Tim Mason said he was “appalled that Senator Rubio would stand in the way of keeping student loan rates low.”