Legislative Committee Inserts Payday Lender Perk in State Budget

July 6, 2015

A proposal to expand the products and services offered by payday lenders, who have contributed more than $161,000 to majority GOP legislators in recent years, has been tucked into the proposed 2015-17 state budget.

The payday lending measure was in a package of nearly six dozen special interest perks introduced and approved in the final hours of the Joint Finance Committee’s action on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget. The budget proposal must now be passed by the full legislature before going back to Walker, who may veto specific items in the budget, for final approval.

The budget provision would allow payday lenders, who frequently charge high fees or interest rates of 300 percent or more on their loans, to sell insurance and annuities, as well as provide other financial or consumer finance services.

Among the top recipient of payday lender contributions between January 2011 and December 2014 were GOP legislative leaders and their fundraising committees, including the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $15,000; Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, $14,750; the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $10,100; and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, of Rochester, $4,500.

The Joint Finance Committee co-chairs, Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, and GOP Rep. John Nygren, of Marinette, received $2,750 and $4,050, respectively, in payday lender contributions between January 2011 and December 2014.

About 88 percent of the $169,560 in payday lender contributions between January 2011 and December 2014 to all current legislators came from outside the state. The top contributors were: Daniel and Linnette Wolfberg, of Winnetka, Ill., co-owers of the Payday Loan Store, $31,450; Robert and Lynne Wolfberg, of Glencoe, Ill., co-owners of the Payday Loan Store, $30,950; Robert Reich, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., owner of Wisconsin Auto Title Loans, $21,000; Trevor Ahlberg, of Irving, Tex., owner of the Cash Store, $18,000; and Rod and Leslie Aycox, of Alpharetta, Ga., owners of LoanMax, $17,000.