Some States Could Tax Biden’s Student Loan Debt Relief

Some states tax forgiven debt as income, which means borrowers who are still paying down student loans could owe taxes on money taken off their bill.

President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan could lift crushing debt burdens from millions of borrowers, but the tax man may demand a cut of the relief in some states.

That’s because some states tax forgiven debt as income, which means borrowers who are still paying down student loans could owe taxes on as much as $10,000 or even $20,000 that was taken off their bill. In Mississippi, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arkansas and North Carolina, forgiven student loans will be subject to state income taxes unless they change their laws to conform with a federal tax exemption for student loans, according to a tally by the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

That dismays Cathy Newman, a Louisiana State University graduate who just took a job teaching freshman biology at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She figures she could end up owing a few hundred dollars of money that she could have kept had she stayed in Louisiana.

Newman said she can come up with the cash because she has a good job, but she knows of a lot of other borrowers who will still be stuck in difficult financial positions even with their loans forgiven.

“If they stay in the state, they could end up with a pretty hefty tax burden if things don’t change,” Newman said. “I won’t be happy if I have to do it. I can do it. But a lot of people can’t.”

More than 40 million Americans could see their student loan debt cut or eliminated under the forgiveness plan President Biden announced late last month. The president is erasing $10,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households that earn less than $250,000. He’s canceling an additional $10,000 for those who also used federal Pell Grants to pay for college. But it only applies to those whose loans were paid out before July 1, which leaves out current high school seniors and students who will follow them.

Although having $10,000 or $20,000 in loan payments eliminated will be a boon over the long term to borrowers who qualify, those in the affected states might be required to declare that as income. Depending on a state’s tax rates, the taxpayer’s other income and the deductions and exemptions they’re able to claim, that could add up to several hundred extra tax dollars that they’ll owe.

Spokespeople for tax agencies in several states — including Virginia, Idaho, New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky — told The Associated Press that their states definitely won’t tax student loans forgiven under President Biden’s program. Revenue officials in a few other states said they needed to do more research to know.

Newman, 38, went into debt to pay for graduate school. She had already set herself up for relief under the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, though that requires five more years of teaching on top of the five she already taught at the University of Louisiana Monroe. President Biden’s program would cut $10,000 off her debt load when it takes effect, but under existing Mississippi tax law, the relief won’t come free.

“It’s not a huge burden for me, but it could be for a lot of other people, which is what I’m worried about, especially if it’s unexpected, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that,” Newman said.

Any relief in states that would tax the forgiven debt would have to come from their Legislatures. Leaders of the Minnesota Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz have indicated in recent media interviews that there’s broad support for a fix, which could come during the 2023 session, or even earlier on the remote chance of a special session.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration plans to propose a fix in the state budget next year, but that would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. And Evers needs to get reelected in November before he can formally make that request. Republican legislative leaders and Evers’ GOP challenger, Tim Michels, did not reply to messages seeking comment on the student loan tax issue.

However, in Mississippi, the chairman of the state Senate committee in charge of taxes said he’s willing to take a look when the Legislature convenes next year. Republican state Sen. Josh Harkins, of Brandon, said he needs to learn more about what his state’s tax laws say on debt forgiveness.

“I’m sure people will want to look at adjusting that or making some changes in the law, but a lot of factors have to be considered,” Harkins said, noting that Mississippi enacted its biggest-ever tax cut earlier this year and adding that he wants to gauge the impact of inflation before making big tax policy decisions. “This all just hit in the last week.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Fort Smith Imparts The History Of The Five Tribes’ Treacherous Journey

By Allison Herrera
August 29, 2022

Fort Smith National Historic Site was the Five Tribes’ final stop before what’s now Oklahoma, but some groups are erasing its history from schools.

When Catherine Gray was in school studying history — something she loves — she always thought she would end up in a classroom teaching the subject.

She never thought she would end up a park ranger at the Fort Smith Historic site, in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

“There’s so much to the history of Fort Smith: the city itself, but then also how it relates to Indian territory and all of that history,” Gray said.

This historic site is known for a number of reasons: its place in Civil War history, the deputy marshals and it being federal court for the Western District of Arkansas at one time.

But what really brought about its fame was the fact that it was the basis for Charles Portis’ classic novel “True Grit,” with colorful stories of outlaws and rangers.

But there’s another piece of history it holds that few people know about: its Indigenous history. It was one of the last stops on the Trail of Tears before heading into Indian Territory, also known as present day Oklahoma.

“People would come here; they couldn’t even pronounce Cherokee,” Gray said. “They would say, ‘Who are the Cherokee?’ or ‘What is the Trail of Tears?’ This is one of the few spots on of all the trails that all five tribes, what we call the five civilized tribes, were removed through.”

Thousands of people who had been forcibly removed from their homelands in Georgia and Alabama went along the banks of the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers to establish new governments and begin again.

“When this was built in 1817… this is the farthest part of the United States at this point,” Gray said while at the Fort Smith National Historic Site where the two rivers converge. “So you have the Cherokee who are moving in to this area, but you’ve also got the Osage here. This is their homelands right here, so there was a lot of conflict early on in the early 1800s. That’s why this fort was established in the first place in 1817.”

All five tribes — the Cherokee, the Choctaw, Muskogee Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw — all came through on the water route.  

“The river was actually one of the harder journeys,” Gray said. “Speaking on behalf of Cherokee Nation, some of those early detachments that went out, the ones on the river, there was so much sickness and death on them that… we petition to be able to oversee our own removal.”

Once Gray learned more about Fort Smith, she found a family connection. She learned that she had numerous tribal lawmen in her family, including one involved in a famous murder trial where they called a dog as a witness.

“I ran across my great, great grandfather’s name as one of the ones involved with the murder of a deputy marshal, William Irwin,” Gray said.

Gray now works for the Cherokee Nation in their historic preservation office. She wants more people to learn about all of Fort Smith’s history and how unique it is.

“Oklahoma currently is home to 39 federally recognized tribes,” Gray said. “We all have our unique histories and cultures, and for the five tribes and specifically the Cherokees that I that I can speak for, we had established our own government, we had our own constitution, our own newspaper schools, all of this.”

Gray thinks it’s important for everyone who comes to Fort Smith to know these stories and is aware of all the scrutiny about what history is taught, and from whose perspective it is taught from.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Police Video Of Fatal Encounter Shows Lack Of De-Escalation

Activists are asking why an unarmed person wound up dead, and are accusing police of using disproportionate force.

A caller to 911 in Salt Lake City said a man had come into a brewery in his underwear, tried to steal beer and was running around in the street, posing a danger to himself and to drivers. Police tried to detain the man. Soon, Nykon Brandon was dead.

After the Salt Lake City Police Department on Friday released body-camera footage of the Aug. 14 fatal encounter and the 911 recording, activists on Saturday were asking why an unarmed person wound up dead and were accusing police of using disproportionate force.

“Stealing a beer does not equate to the death penalty,” said Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter-Utah. “I don’t care if this man robbed 10 banks in one day. He didn’t deserve to die. He deserved to make it to court.”

The death of Brandon, who was 35, comes as the United States is still seeing uncounted numbers of police killings of unarmed people, many of whom were suffering a mental health crisis. Activists have called for reforms, saying rather than armed police who can often escalate situations, a better solution would be for special mental health crisis teams to respond.

Brandon’s Facebook page says he’d attended Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and worked for a firm that sells appliances, plumbing and hardware. Many people who posted on his page expressed shock and grief over his death.

The 911 caller said a man had come to Fisher Brewing, attacked a person at the door and was “running around crazy. Very erratic. He just jumped in and out of the road.”

“Definitely mental health issues,” the caller said. “So if you’ve got mental health resources, send them out.”

Instead, bodycam footage shows a police officer get out of his patrol car and order Brandon to stop. When he resists and puts up a fist and appears to reach for the officer’s holstered pistol, another officer pushes Brandon to the ground and the two officers try to pin him down. “Stop,” one of the officers says repeatedly as Brandon is on a gravel bed between the road and the sidewalk and continuing to push against the officers.

No de-escalation attempts by the police are visible or audible in the footage from nine body-worn cameras, even though an executive order signed by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall two years ago requires all Salt Lake City Police Department officers to use de-escalation techniques before using force.

“De-escalation tactics are no longer suggested or preferred — they are mandatory prior to using force to effect an arrest unless it would be unreasonable to do so,” Mendenhall said in announcing the police reforms, which were prompted in part by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020.

Salt Lake City Police Department spokesperson Brent Weisberg said of the Aug. 14 incident: “As the body-worn camera video shows, this is a situation that rapidly unfolded. It was a chaotic situation and our officers were required to make very fast decisions to get a situation under control that was very tense.”

Before Brandon walked into Fisher Brewing, he had been taken by South Salt Lake Police to a detox facility after they received a report of a man acting confused and scared at a park just after 1 p.m. on Aug. 14, KUTV reported.

Officers determined he was intoxicated, took him to the facility and cited him for public intoxication. But the facility is not a detention center and patients can leave at their will, KUTV reported.

The Salt Lake City Police Department officers encountered Brandon at 3:22 p.m. In the videos, he’s not heard speaking during his struggles with the officers, except for maybe a couple of words that are unclear.

A minute later, a third officer arrives. Video shows Brandon grabbing onto his holster and gun. They finally manage to cuff Brandon’s hands behind his back as he lies on the gravel belly down.

“We want to help you,” an officer says. “You’ve got to stop fighting with us.”

After a few seconds, Brandon stops moving. An officer taps Brandon on the shoulder with his gloved hand and asks “Can you hear me?” three times. Brandon does not respond.

“Get him in recovery,” an officer commands, and the others roll Brandon onto his side.

“Come on man,” an officer says. All the camera footage released by the police goes dark at that point.

Salt Lake City Police said in a press release that officers began to perform medical aid at 3:27 p.m. A minute later, they administered the first of multiple doses of Narcan and started performing chest compressions.

“At 4:16 p.m. SLCPD is notified that Mr. Brandon died. The exact time of death is unknown,” the news release said.

The police department said a thorough investigation was being conducted by an outside agency and that the department’s own internal affairs unit would conduct a separate investigation.

Rae Duckworth, operating chairperson for Black Lives Matter’s Utah chapters, wants to know why the released footage doesn’t show the officers trying to help Brandon.

“We don’t even have proof they actually administered aid. We don’t have proof that they actually administered Narcan,” Duckworth said.

Weisberg, the police spokesperson, said footage of the resuscitation efforts was not released out of consideration for Brandon’s family.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Multiple Agencies Are Investigating Police Beating Of Arkansas Man

Arkansas state police, the U.S. attorney and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice are investigating a police beating.

A graphic video showing Arkansas law enforcement beating a man in custody Sunday morning is now circulating online.

In the video, two deputies and an officer have a man pinned down outside a convenience store in Mulberry, Arkansas. One of the officers is seen repeatedly punching the man while the other officer uses his knee against him and the third holds the man down.

Arkansas state police say an investigation has been opened into the use of force by the two Crawford County sheriff’s deputies and the Mulberry police officer. On Monday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison said along with the state police, the U.S. attorney and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice are also investigating.

The Crawford County sheriff’s office has identified the officers as Deputy Zack King, Deputy Levi White and Mulberry Officer Thell Riddle. All three men have been placed on suspension.

Arkansas state police say the man pinned down in the video has been identified as Randall Worcester of South Carolina.

The department says he was treated at an area hospital following his arrest before being taken to jail. Worcester is being charged with second degree battery, resisting arrest, and terroristic threatening among other charges. He is currently out on bond.

The sheriff’s department told KFSM-TV that Worcester had spit on an employee at a convenience store in nearby Alma, Arkansas and had threatened to “cut off their face.” After bicycling about 10 miles to Mulberry, he was confronted by law enforcement and allegedly attacked one of the deputies.

On Monday, Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante told reporters that while his department condemns violence against civilians, he said a dash cam from one of the police cars ”does bring to light some other things that happened here.” 

In a statement, Mulberry Mayor Gary Baxter says he was shocked and sickened by the video, adding that any actions necessary will be taken to ensure this never happens again.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

3 Arkansas Officers Suspended After Video Captures Beating

By Associated Press
August 22, 2022

Two state deputies and a Mulberry police officer were put on suspension after the incident.

Three Arkansas law enforcement officers were suspended Sunday following social media outrage over a video that shows a suspect being held down on the ground and beaten.

Crawford County Sheriff Jimmy Damante issued a statement Sunday evening, stating two county deputies will be suspended during the course of the Arkansas state police’s investigation into the incident and the sheriff’s office’s internal investigation. A Mulberry police officer also was suspended.

“I hold all my employees accountable for their actions and will take appropriate measures in this matter,” Damante said.

In a statement released Sunday evening, Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory said the officer involved in the incident is on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“The city of Mulberry and the Mulberry police department takes these investigations very seriously,” Gregory said.

According to police, a report indicated that a man was making threats to a convenience store employee in Mulberry on Sunday morning. Mulberry is located about 137 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Police said when the officers confronted the man, he pushed a deputy to the ground and punched the back of his head, leading to the arrest seen in the video.

Three law enforcement officers are seen in the video. One can be seen punching the shoeless suspect with a clenched fist, while another can be seen kneeing him, and a third is holding him down.

The unidentified man was arrested and taken to a local hospital. He faces charges of terroristic threatening, resisting arrest and other assault charges, police said.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday night on Twitter that the “incident in Crawford County will be investigated pursuant to the video evidence and the request of the prosecuting attorney.”

No further information was immediately available.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Some Capitol Rioters Try To Profit From Their Jan. 6 Crimes

A group calling itself the Patriot Freedom Project says it has raised more than $1 million in contributions .

Facing prison time and dire personal consequences for storming the U.S. Capitol, some Jan. 6 defendants are trying to profit from their participation in the deadly riot, using it as a platform to drum up cash, promote business endeavors and boost social media profiles.

A Nevada man jailed on riot charges asked his mother to contact publishers for a book he was writing about “the Capitol incident.” A rioter from Washington state helped his father hawk clothes and other merchandise bearing slogans such as “Our House” and images of the Capitol building. A Virginia man released a rap album with riot-themed songs and a cover photograph of him sitting on a police vehicle outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Those actions are sometimes complicating matters for defendants when they face judges at sentencing as prosecutors point to the profit-chasing activities in seeking tougher punishments. The Justice Department, in some instances, is trying to claw back money that rioters have made off the insurrection.

In one case, federal authorities have seized tens of thousands of dollars from a defendant who sold his footage from Jan. 6. In another case, a Florida man’s plea deal allows the U.S. government to collect profits from any book he gets published over the next five years. And prosecutors want a Maine man who raised more than $20,000 from supporters to surrender some of the money because a taxpayer-funded public defender is representing him.

Many rioters have paid a steep personal price for their actions on Jan. 6. At sentencing, rioters often ask for leniency on the grounds that they already have experienced severe consequences for their crimes.

They lost jobs or entire careers. Marriages fell apart. Friends and relatives shunned them or even reported them to the FBI. Strangers have sent them hate mail and online threats. And they have racked up expensive legal bills to defend themselves against federal charges ranging from misdemeanors to serious felonies.

Websites and crowdfunding platforms set up to collect donations for Capitol riot defendants try to portray them as mistreated patriots or even political prisoners.

An anti-vaccine medical doctor who pleaded guilty to illegally entering the Capitol founded a nonprofit that raised more than $430,000 for her legal expenses. The fundraising appeal by Dr. Simone Gold’s group, America’s Frontline Doctors, didn’t mention her guilty plea, prosecutors noted.

Before sentencing Gold to two months behind bars, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper called it “unseemly” that her nonprofit invoked the Capitol riot to raise money that also paid for her salary. Prosecutors said in court papers that it “beggars belief” that she incurred anywhere close to $430,000 in legal costs for her misdemeanor case.

Another rioter, a New Jersey gym owner who punched a police officer during the siege, raised more than $30,000 in online donations for a “Patriot Relief Fund” to cover his mortgage payments and other monthly bills. Prosecutors cited the fund in recommending a fine for Scott Fairlamb, who is serving a prison sentence of more than three years.

“Fairlamb should not be able to ‘capitalize’ on his participation in the Capitol breach in this way,” Justice Department lawyers wrote.

Robert Palmer, a Florida man who attacked police officers at the Capitol, asked a friend to create a crowdfunding campaign for him online after he pleaded guilty. After seeing the campaign to “Help Patriot Rob,” a probation officer calculating a sentencing recommendation for Palmer didn’t give him credit for accepting responsibility for his conduct. Palmer conceded that a post for the campaign falsely portrayed his conduct on Jan. 6. Acceptance of responsibility can help shave months or even years off a sentence.

“When you threw the fire extinguisher and the plank at the police officers, were you acting in self-defense?” asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

“No, ma’am, I was not,” Palmer said before the judge sentenced him to more than five years in prison.

A group calling itself the Patriot Freedom Project says it has raised more than $1 million in contributions and paid more than $665,000 in grants and legal fees for families of Capitol riot defendants.

In April, a New Jersey-based foundation associated with the group filed an IRS application for tax-exempt status. As of early August, an IRS database doesn’t list the foundation as a tax-exempt organization. The Hughes Foundation’s IRS application says its funds “principally” will benefit families of Jan. 6 defendants, with about 60% of the donated money going to foundation activities. The rest will cover management and fundraising expenses, including salaries, it adds.

Rioters have found other ways to enrich or promote themselves.

Jeremy Grace, who was sentenced to three weeks in jail for entering the Capitol, tried to profit off his participation by helping his dad sell T-shirts, baseball caps, water bottles, decals and other gear with phrases such as “Our House” and “Back the Blue” and images of the Capitol, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Grace’s “audacity” to sell “Back the Blue” paraphernalia is “especially disturbing” because he watched other rioters confront police officers on Jan. 6. A defense lawyer, however, said Grace didn’t break any laws or earn any profits by helping his father sell the merchandise.

Federal authorities seized more than $62,000 from a bank account belonging to riot defendant John Earle Sullivan, a Utah man who earned more than $90,000 from selling his Jan. 6 video footage to at least six companies. Sullivan’s lawyer argued authorities had no right to seize the money.

Richard “Bigo” Barnett, an Arkansas man photographed propping his feet up on a desk in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has charged donors $100 for photos of him with his feet on a desk while under house arrest. Defense lawyer Joseph McBride said prosecutors have “zero grounds” to prevent Barnett from raising money for his defense before a December trial date.

“Unlike the government, Mr. Barnett does not have the American Taxpayer footing the bill for his legal case,” McBride wrote in a court filing.

Texas real estate agent Jennifer Leigh Ryan promoted her business on social media during and after the riot, boasting that she was “becoming famous.” In messages sent after Jan. 6, Ryan “contemplated the business she needed to prepare for as a result of the publicity she received from joining the mob at the Capitol,” prosecutors said in court documents.

Prosecutors cited the social media activity of Treniss Evans III in recommending a two-month jail term for the Texas man, who drank a shot of whiskey in a congressional conference room on Jan. 6. Evans has “aggressively exploited” his presence at the Capitol to expand his social media following on Gettr, a social media site founded by a former Trump adviser, prosecutors wrote before Evans’ sentencing, scheduled for this coming Tuesday,

A few rioters are writing books about the mob’s attack or have marketed videos that they shot during the riot.

A unique provision in Adam Johnson’s plea agreement allows the U.S. government to collect profits from any book he gets published over the next five years. Images of Johnson posing for photographs with Pelosi’s podium went viral after the riot. Prosecutors said they insisted on the provision after learning that Johnson intends to write a memoir “of some sort.”

Ronald Sandlin, a Nevada man charged with assaulting officers near doors to the Senate gallery, posted on Facebook that he was “working out a Netflix deal” to sell riot video footage. Later, in a call from jail, Sandlin told his mother that he had met with right-wing author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and was in contact with podcaster Joe Rogan. He also asked his mom to contact publishers for the book he was writing about the “Capitol incident,” prosecutors said.

“I hope to turn it into movie,” Sandlin wrote in a March 2021 text message. “I plan on having Leonardo DiCaprio play me,” he wrote, adding a smiley face emoji.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Kansans Are Voting To Alter The Language Of Abortion In The State

Kansas is the first state to vote on altering the language of the state constitution on abortion, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Elections in ruby red Kansas don’t normally have much drama. But that’s not the case this time. Tuesday voters will decide who should decide the state’s abortion rights — and it could have rippled effects across the country.  

Vania Soto, a muralist, spends her evenings creating murals all over the Kansas City area to remind people  of what’s at stake. 

“It’s very stressful to think that that freedom is on the line. It’s heartbreaking to think that we’re going backwards,” Soto said.  

Kansans are voting to alter the language of the state constitution — making it the first state to vote on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

“I want them to take this as an empowerment and to know that they’re not alone. There’s a whole community, even businesses that are not afraid to speak out loud or to put something as dramatic as a uterus in their windows to let their customers know that they’re with us,” Soto said. 

The question voters will answer on the ballot is a bit confusing. A yes vote means there is no constitutional right to an abortion. A no vote means there is. If it passes, the veto-proof, Republican-controlled legislature can write laws about abortion. And while advocates for the measure are downplaying what they’ll do, Sandy Brown, the president of the Kansas Abortion Fund, says legislators have made it pretty clear. 

“Who can trust their word at this point? We’ve already seen the language. We’ve already seen what is ready to be drawn up. It’s just a matter of time if we lose,” Brown said. 

This amendment didn’t just spring up in light of the Supreme Court’s decision – it’s been in the works for about three years. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the state constitution’s Bill of Rights “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body.”  

Brittany Jones says that decision impacted this issue beyond the sunflower state. 

“Because of that ruling, we were even more a destination for abortion. And that’s why it’s even more important that we passed this, to protect our state from becoming another unlimited, unregulated destination state,” Jones said.  

And it’s only been exacerbated by the overturning of Roe. Missouri and Oklahoma have already outlawed abortion, and women in Iowa and Nebraska will likely see restrictions soon. 

“Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, all of those patients are now coming to Kansas. There are only so many doctors who can provide abortion care. There’s a there’s a scarcity of medical staff. And many of those patients are coming from other states. And they’re stretched thin,” Brown continued. 

While Kansans haven’t sent a Democrat to Washington in almost nine decades, a recent poll shows Kansans are sharply divided on this issue. 49% agree with the recent Supreme Court decision, compared with 46% who don’t — and that number is reflected in polling on this amendment. About a third of Kansans believe there should be no restrictions on abortion.  

The vote is expected to be close. Both sides including the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, have poured millions into these campaigns, and it appears to have worked. Voter registration and early voting turnout skyrocketed in what normally would be a quiet primary cycle.  

“This is a case where every single vote counts, every one,” Brown said.  



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<