Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

President Obama’s proposed $4-trillion budget plan is getting a chilly reception in Congress, according to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican. “This is a tax-and-spend budget,” Grassley says. “There’s no effort to balance the budget or reduce deficit spending and I’m going to say it’s not a serious budget.”

The president’s budget outline, presented on Monday, includes a massive public works infrastructure program, a boost in military spending and a tax hike for the wealthy. Grassley says it will have no chance in the Republican-led House or Senate.

“Republicans generally put up the president’s budget for a vote and usually it gets zero votes, which means even the Democrats don’t back it,” Grassley says. “The point is, the president proposes and Congress disposes.”

During his State of the Union Address, President Obama suggested eliminating the tax break on 529 college savings plans and using it to offer free community college tuition. A backlash followed and the proposal was withdrawn a few days later. Grassley says he’s already helped to craft new legislation to bolster those 529 plans, which include College Savings Iowa.

“Congress wants to show families that we support savings for education,” Grassley says. “We want to keep 529 plans. We want to make them even more appealing.” The College Savings Iowa program was created in 1998 and now has a fund worth more than three-and-a-half billion dollars, as parents and grandparents save for college for their kids and grandkids.

There are active accounts for almost 250,000 young people. Grassley says the Iowa program — and others like it — works and shouldn’t be tinkered with by the Obama administration. Grassley says, “A bipartisan bill I introduced yesterday would allow 529 funds to buy computers used for college, it would get rid of unneeded paperwork and it would remove penalties families currently face if the student has to withdraw from school for illness and other reasons.”

The additions proposed in the bill offer more flexibility for using the tax-free savings, Grassley says. The more flexibility, the more people use the program, he says, adding, it “sends the message to families that Congress supports this program and will fight efforts to get rid of it.”