Wisconsin CRA Bill Goes Nowhere Despite Push by State Bankers
MADISON, Wis. -- Amidst banker vs. credit union invective, the Wisconsin State Legislature has for the moment turned thumbs down on passing Community Act Investment rules to cover CUs.
An enabling bill targeting CUs above $100 million, which was drafted by the Wisconsin Bankers Association and introduced by the Assembly's Pro Temp Speaker Representative Mark Gottlieb (R-Port Washington), never got out of committee as the legislature ended its regular session March 13.
The banking lobby vowed to re-introduce the Gottlieb bill during a budget session slated later this spring, but the Wisconsin Credit Union League claimed the measure stands no chance and was just a desperate attempt to draw headlines. The measure had only one Assembly sponsor "and we couldn't even find bankers who were constituents," said a spokeswoman, contending that the WBA had persuaded Gottlieb to do trade group bidding.
Meanwhile, the two trade groups traded bitter media blasts through a series of press releases focusing on the tax exemption and on "large nontraditional credit unions" that need to be treated like banks, declared the WBA.
In a counter punch, the league called banker tactics "bait and switch" and an attempt to put CUs out of business and "take them over."
Citing its own study and three others by the Government Accountability Office, the Woodstock Institute of Chicago and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the WBA claimed there is now proof CUs are failing the underserved.
However, Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the league, charged the banker studies are seriously flawed and represent a smoke screen for their own poor practices in serving low-income consumers and minorities.
Thompson stated that the Gottlieb bill is another attempt to eliminate CUs in the financial marketplace, adding, "banks already control 91% of the assets" in Wisconsin "but it seems they want more, and now they've set their sights on the largest credit unions."
The Gottlieb bill also contains a provision enabling CUs to switch to mutual savings bank charters.
In its latest press release issued last week, the WBA noted that 100 bankers turned out for the first hearing on the Gottlieb bill voicing claims that "large, profit-driven credit unions lag banks in serving lower income, minority consumers."
The WBA acknowledged the uncertain status of the bill. While it "may not move forward this session, it laid a strong foundation for the next legislative session," forecast the WBA.
The league countered that the Gottlieb bill was totally unnecessary since "credit unions have never been subject to the federal CRA because there has been no evidence they were discriminating or failing to serve their member-owners."