Diverse coalition opposes rent-to-own expansion

A diverse, bipartisan coalition is calling for removal of a provision in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget that would not only allow rent-to-own businesses to operate in Wisconsin, but would grant them special exemptions and privileges.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), a longtime opponent of the rent-to-own industry, joined with Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and prominent clergy and consumer rights activists recently at a rally at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin headquarters on Milwaukee’s south side.

Grothman blasted Walker, saying that the governor ran for office on a platform of reducing the amount of policy issues in state budgets. In particular, Grothman criticized the practices of Plano, Texas-based Rent-A-Center.

“I assume Gov. Walker does not know how predatory and just plain evil this chain is,” Grothman said.

Taylor said the rent-to-own provision is especially upsetting because it is buried in the budget.

“We need to shine a light on this issue because it’s hidden in the budget,” Taylor said. “To me, if Gov. Walker is so proud of this provision, he should put it in a freestanding bill,” where it will be subject to public hearings, Taylor added.

Grothman said it would take at least five Republicans to join Democrats in a Joint Finance Committee vote to remove the provision because Republicans have a 12-4 majority on the committee.

In March, a letter signed by WISPIRG, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Community Action Coalition for South Central WI, Inc., Wisconsin Association for Justice, the Consumer Law Litigation Clinic of the University of Wisconsin Law School, WISDOM, Wisconsin Community Action Program Association, Inc., Wisconsin Council of Churches, and Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups against the expansion of the industry was sent to all Wisconsin state legislators and Walker.

For ongoing coverage, visit www.wispolitics.com, a media partner of BizTimes.

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