Steve Bullock said he’s not one to eliminate all student-loan debt in an Iowa City stop

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, 2020 Democratic hopeful, made a campaign stop in Iowa City on Wednesday, where he told reporters he is not one to eliminate all student-loan debt.


Katie Goodale

Governor of Montana Steve Bullock addresses members of the press during his meet and greet in Blackstone on July 10, 2019. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Julia Shanahan, Politics Editor

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, told reporters in an Iowa City campaign stop that he does not support policies to completely forgive all outstanding student-loan debt — policies that have been touted in Iowa City by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Bullock said he instead wants to focus on changing the dynamics of how people can pay off student-loan debt; if an employer wants to help an employee pay off the debt, that money should not be taxed.

“I think there’s a whole lot of things we can do to make the debt load a little bit easier, but I am not one to say wipe it all out,” Bullock told reporters July 10 at Blackstone. “We also have $15 billion of car loans … no one is necessarily saying let’s get rid of all those loans.”

According to a Finder analysis, Americans applied for and accumulated $568.8 billion in auto-loan debt by the end of 2017. An individual can file for bankruptcy to get auto-loan payments reduced, but only 0.04 percent of people get their student-loan debt discharged after filing for bankruptcy, according to the Social Science Research Network.

Katie Goodale
Ellen Welborn from Coralville looks at the door during Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s meet-and-greet in Blackstone on July 10. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Bullock served as Montana’s attorney general from 2009 to 2013, and he was then elected governor. At his Iowa City stop, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller campaigned with Bullock, saying they are old friends.

“Iowa has been moving in the wrong direction, and we need to take it back,” Miller said, pointing to the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature. “I think [Bullock is] the strongest we could have on the ticket.”

Bullock opened his speech speaking against President Trump, saying he hopes to make him a one-term president. Bullock later answered a question from an attendee who asked how exactly he plans to unseat Trump in 2020.

“We got to give folks a reason to vote for us and not just against [Trump],” Bullock said. “Because there are times when Democrats are talking, and they’re talking about how bad Donald Trump is, and guess what, I agree … but there’s that transfer in suggesting that there’s something wrong with folks because they voted for him.”

Bullock serves as the Democratic governor in a state that Trump won in 2016 with 55.6% of the vote.

Bullock has campaigned heavily on getting rid of “dark money” in politics — a phrase used to describe donations meant to influence political campaigns, typically without disclosure. However, recent reports show that a lobbyist for dark-money donors is contributing to his campaign.

“From the beginning of this, I’ve turned around and said no corporate dollars, no PAC dollars, and every dollar that will come into my campaign will be disclosed,” Bullock told reporters.

Katie Goodale
Crowds gather to listen to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s during his meet-and-greet in Blackstone on July 10. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Bullock did not qualify for the first Democratic-nomination debates in June, and he instead held public meetings in Iowa. To qualify for the first debate, a candidate needed at least 65,000 unique donors or had to poll at 1 percent in three polls approved by the Democratic National Ccommittee. Bullock did not meet the requirements but will be on the debate stage in July.

Amy Pearson, an Iowa City resident since 1979, said Bullock could potentially be on her list of candidates she would support in the February caucuses, and it does not discourage her that Bullock has been polling lower than other candidates.

“I liked seeing Bullock, because he’s a Democrat from Montana who is really able to talk to Republicans without insulting them,” Pearson said. “It’s a big plus.”