State representatives proposed a bill Tuesday that would prevent Gov. Scott Walker from using mortgage settlement funds intended for Wisconsin citizens to fill a future lapse in the state budget.
Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, proposed the bill with Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, on Tuesday. The bill would instead utilize the funds to help Wisconsin families dealing with foreclosure. According to Mason, the idea behind the bill is to put the money from the settlement in the hands of families hurt by the foreclosure crisis in Wisconsin.
“Home sales are at an all-time low and have dropped because of a foreclosure crisis that continues to persist and takes a big toll on families,” Mason said. “This bill has a real chance at turning the state’s economy around.”
Mason added he believes as the state’s deficit continues to rise, Walker is simply trying to clear a budget mess that he created. The bill is intended to help families instead of the budget, which is what the money was originally intended for, he said.
Mason said he hopes the bill will receive bipartisan support.
“I’m hoping we can prevail on these Republicans and stand by the citizens in Wisconsin that really need the resources to get through the foreclosure mess,” Mason said. “We owe it to them to make sure the funds are being used for their intended purpose.”
Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Rep. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, said the representative is open to looking at Mason’s proposal, but he asserted the bill is more about liberal politics than a serious policy initiative.
The $25 million to balance the budget will help the state because it does not require cutting money from universities, other school districts or corrections systems, Mikalsen added.
“Rep. Mason doesn’t have a good definition of how he would prefer to see that money spent,” Mikalsen said. “But then again there are many people in the state that will have differing opinions about whether or not the state should mitigate foreclosures.”
Graeme Zielinski, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, expressed concern Walker would use the settlement funds to fix the budget deficit.
Zielinski said Walker is trying to fix the budget hole he created by giving $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to tax corporations and billionaires.
“I think Scott Walker has been unable to balance the budget, despite all of his public proclamations, and the folks who were harmed by the mortgage meltdown shouldn’t be further harmed by Scott Walker’s incompetence,” Zielinski said.
According to a joint statement from Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Wisconsin will join an agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers that have been accused of foreclosure abuse to provide the state with an estimated $140 million for addressing foreclosures. The statement said the state government would be compensated for $31.6 million of the settlement.
Van Hollen said in the statement the settlement will bring relief to citizens in Wisconsin who have been harmed by unfair mortgage practices.