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Auto title loan ban expected to affect local businesses

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Gazette staff and Associated Press
May 22, 2010
— Five of Janesville's 12 payday loan operations likely will be affected by Gov. Jim Doyle's recent ban on auto title loans in Wisconsin.

Doyle on Tuesday signed a payday lending bill into law, but not before using his partial veto pen to cross out 33 words from the bill to create a sentence that reads "No licensed lender may make a title loan."


Calls to all 12 of the payday loan companies in Janesville on Thursday determined that five make auto title loans. Employees at all five referred further questions to corporate headquarters, none of which returned phone messages.


The local companies offering title loans are EZMONEY Payday Loans, LoanMax, Speedy Loan, BudgetLine Cash Advance and Wisconsin Auto Title Loans.


In addition to the title loans, all five also make payday loans, so it's not clear whether they will continue in business past Doyle's ban that starts Dec. 1.


But the few strokes of Doyle's pen could put Sarah Lemanski out of work.


Lemanski said Wednesday she will lose her job as manager of a LoanMax store in Madison. The 24-year-old said she had just gotten a merit raise that bumped her salary to $35,000 a year after three years at the store. Her roughly 30 colleagues at the chain's 12 locations in Wisconsin could be put out of work, too.


"I don't think he actually considered the people employed with these companies," said Lemanski, who is pregnant and has "no idea" where she'll find work.


Industry representatives reacted angrily to the governor's unprecedented veto putting them out of business. But supporters hailed the move as a blow against predatory lending that will protect low-income families.


Wisconsin lawmakers passed a bill last month that put new regulations on auto title lenders allowing customers to take only one loan at a time and capping them to 50 percent of a car's value. The Assembly approved a measure to ban the loans, but that was stripped from the final version after the Senate objected amid an industry lobbying blitz.


Using the partial veto, Doyle revived the ban. He said loans guaranteed by a vehicle's title jeopardize an asset that is essential to the well-being of working families.


"Hardworking people in low-income jobs end up losing their cars because of the auto title industry and as a result can't go to work," he said.


Noting that the loans are banned in most states, he said, "It's hardly that I've done something that is so unusual."



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