Yesterday, 49 states joined the federal government in announcing a $26 billion settlement with five of the nation’s biggest banks over the banks’ foreclosure fraud abuses. The money from the settlement is meant to aid homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure or who find themselves underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth.
However, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — whose high profile assault on workers’ rights has prompted a recall effort against him — isn’t planning to use the money to help homeowners. Under the terms of the settlement, Wisconsin is set to receive $140 million, $31.6 million of which comes directly to the state government. And Walker is planning to use $25.6 million of that money to help balance his state’s budget:
Of a $31.6 million payment coming directly to the state government, most of that money – $25.6 million – will go to help close a budget shortfall revealed in newly released state projections. [Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen], whose office said he has the legal authority over the money, made the decision in consultation with Walker.
“Just like communities and individuals have been affected, the foreclosure crisis has had an effect on the state of Wisconsin, in terms of unemployment. … This will offset that damage done to the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
A memo from Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau released yesterday notes “it is anticipated that Wisconsin will receive $31.6 million. Based on discussions between the Attorney General and the administration, of the amounts received by the state, $25.6 million will be deposited to the general fund as GPR-Earned in 2011-12, and the remaining $6 million will be retained by the Department of Justice to be allocated at a later date.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) criticized Walker’s move, saying “not one dime [of the settlement] should be used to fund the unbalanced state budget.” Adding insult to injury, Walker has previously criticized using one-time settlement money to fill budget holes.
The settlement money already doesn’t come close to addressing the depths of the nation’s housing problem, though it will provide real relief to the people whom it does reach. But the money was certainly not intended to paper over state budget problems, particularly in a state whose governor assured everybody up and down that busting his state’s public unions was the key to fiscal solvency.