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SE Ohio Reps Oppose Graduate Student Tax, Despite Supporting Tax Reform

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Two U.S. congressmen representing Southeastern Ohio who voted in favor of the new tax reform bill have now included themselves in a letter opposing one part of that tax bill.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-6th district) was among the 30 representatives signing the letter, along with Rep. Steve Stivers (R-15th district). West Virginia Representative Evan Jenkins (R-3rd District) also included his signature on the document. All three voted “yes” on the initial tax reform bill as a whole, which was passed by the House in November.

The letter, dated Dec. 7, was sent to Republican leaders as the House of Representatives and Senate begin reconciling approved bills from both chambers. The tax overhaul is being called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In the letter, the representatives argue the elimination of graduate tuition waivers would “undermine our competitive position, and would inhibit the economic growth that tax reform promises.”

“Repeal of the income exclusion for graduate tuition waivers would subject thousands of graduate students to a major tax increase at a time in their lives when they likely lack the ability to pay,” the letter stated.

The graduate student tuition waivers allow those students to attend colleges and universities and receive breaks on their tuition without being taxed on those breaks as though it were income. Graduate students are taxed on the income they receive from stipends.

The letter cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics in stating the median wage for a graduate teaching assistant as $34,240. Those signing the letter argue repeal of the waiver would increase the taxable income for those students by $12,000 to $50,000.

“A policy that increases students’ costs would discourage our nation’s brightest minds from developing greater expertise in their area of study and engaging in leading-edge research,” the letter stated.

National news outlets are reporting congressional leaders, and the White House, hope to bring the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act together for passage before the end of the year.