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College financial aid heats up as Love-Matheson campaign issue

Published: Monday, Sept. 10 2012 11:11 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — In recent weeks, Rep. Jim Matheson has attacked Mia Love's fiscal proposal that would cut billions of dollars in federal programs, including student financial aid and local law enforcement grants.

Asked if she still stands behind the plan to cut those and other programs, Love didn't say yes. But she didn't say no, either.

"There are so many things that aren’t listed in there. We could only list so many things and I wanted to hit the ground running. So that was a point of conversation to get out so that people could start talking about it," she said after a fundraising luncheon last Friday.

And though the Republican candidate hasn't talked about what's dubbed "Mia's initial plan," Matheson certainly has tried to make hay out of it. He held news conferences with college students and with the Salt Lake County sheriff to decry the proposed cuts to federal college aid and police department grants.

"She wants to get rid of all federal student loans, pull the rug out from 75 percent of the kids going to school in Utah. I'm against that. She wants to make our communities more dangerous by taking away funding for all local law enforcement," the six-term Democrat said.

Love's proposal, which she sent to Republican delegates before the state GOP convention, calls for $758.6 billion in federal cuts including subsidies for food, K-12 education and urban transit.

Asked about the plan on "Fox News Sunday," Love gave a similar answer, saying nothing is set in stone and that she wanted to start the discussion about federal spending.

Matheson criticized Love's answer Sunday.

"Yet when asked to defend it, she first tries to back away from her longstanding published plan, and then gives an incoherent answer," he said in a prepared statement.

Matheson also criticized Love for accepting federal student loans to attend college but now wants to eliminate the program for future students. "Doe she not believe they should have access to the same path to success that she traveled?" he said.

"I'm still paying them off and I'm still paying the interest on them and I wish I had other options. I want to give those options to other Americans," said Love, who earned a fine arts degree from the University of Hartford.

Love said her goal is to help states bring down the cost of tuition so more people have access to higher education. Matheson's goal, she said, is to incur as much debt as possible.

"Every single press conference he's done has been to preserve government spending, and then he claims he's a fiscal conservative. I haven't seen one plan from him on how we're going to cut this spending," she said.

Matheson said he has voted for spending cuts totaling $3 trillion already, joined a bipartisan coalition seeking $4 trillion in debt reduction, favored Rep. Paul Ryan's bill giving the president line-item veto power and supported a balanced budget amendment.

"I think I have a track record that shows how I want to cut spending in significant amounts," he said. "I just don't think she understands how the federal budget is laid out and what it's going to take to make meaningful reductions to the deficit."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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