Sen. Haskell Named Finalist in National Ideas Challenge

The NewDEAL announced today that State Senator Will Haskell’s (D-Westport) efforts to address student debt and the cost of college have made him a finalist in the 2021 Ideas Challenge – a competition among rising and innovative state and local policymakers to propose the most effective solutions on an array of issues. Policy experts vote for the proposals that best improve Americans’ economic well-being and overall quality of life, and that make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs. 

After evaluation by a diverse panel of judges (see list below), Haskell’s Student Loan Repayment Tax Credit is a finalist among submissions for expanding access to education, which includes ideas aimed at creating opportunities at every level — from early childhood to post-secondary — to prepare students to make the most of their abilities. Haskell’s submission involves a corporate tax credit for any business that helps to pay off the student loans of the employees. The credit can be valued up to $5,250 per year to sync with a federal tax benefit available to employers. (More finalists are listed below.)

“State and local leaders face enormous challenges as they work on the frontlines to rebuild from a persistent pandemic, close the long-standing inequities highlighted by COVID-19, and ensure our communities emerge with more economic opportunity for everyone,” said NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan. “The Ideas Challenge shows how a group of innovative state and local officials are rising to the occasion of finding solutions. Senator Haskell and his fellow finalists have made proposals that, together, set an important governing agenda for the country to follow, including to make the most of the critical federal funds from the American Rescue Plan and to ensure that our nation makes good on the promise to build back better.”

The Challenge was open to the 178 members of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), an organization that supports state and local pro-growth progressive elected officials through the exchange of ideas and engagement with other top public, private, and non-profit sector officials. U.S. Senator Chris Coons (DE), U.S. Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), and Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin serve as Honorary Co-Chairs of the group.

The five winners of the Ideas Challenge will be announced on Thursday, November 18, at the eleventh annual NewDEAL Leaders Conference in Washington.

In its fifth edition, this year’s competition takes place in the context of one of the most challenging times to be a state or local elected official as communities navigate a host of issues related to the ongoing pandemic while aiming to rebuild in a way that improves opportunities and quality of life compared to before this crisis. 

NewDEALers are leading the response to COVID-19 throughout the nation and taking on vital roles in implementing the American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Biden, which is sending hundreds of billions of dollars to state and local governments. The Ideas Challenge recognizes that these leaders, who represent diverse communities from urban centers to rural towns and in red, blue, and purple areas, have powerful messages, experiences, and proposals that must be heard. 

“I am so thrilled that this idea has been included alongside so many innovative and inspiring proposals,” said Haskell. “Bringing this tax credit to Connecticut was a true collaboration between Senators James Maroney, Alex Kasser and myself. We believed that the public and private sector should work together to solve a trillion dollar problem and bolster our workforce pipeline. Astronomical student loan debt holds students and recent graduates back, delaying the launch of a small business, the purchase of a first home and the start of a family. I’m proud that we were able to work across the aisle in revitalizing our economy and making higher education more affordable. And I’m so excited to have the chance to share it as a template that can be replicated by NewDEALers and others across the country.”  


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