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Homeowner advocates blast Walker's plan to use $26 million from mortgage settlement for state deficit repair
Wisconsin State Journal
Local homeowner advocates on Friday were reeling from Gov. Scott Walker's decision to spend some of the money Wisconsin will receive from the national mortgage-abuse settlement on deficit reduction. Walker announced Thursday he would use $25.6 million - or nearly 20 percent of the state's total $140 million share of the settlement - to help close a newly discovered $143 million hole in the state budget. Most of the rest of the settlement would be used to directly help an eligible subset of the state's struggling homeowners. The $25.6 million Walker plans to use for deficit reduction comes out of a $31.6 million chunk set aside specifically for state government under the settlement. It can be used for police-related expenses, additional borrower aid, civil penalties, payback for state losses related to the crisis, and foreclosure prevention programs. Wisconsin State Journal

Area home sales up 15.5% in January
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Data released Friday shows the metro Milwaukee residential real estate market got off to a positive start in 2012 as January sales of existing homes rose 15.5% from a year earlier. That's a far cry from the more than 1,000 homes sold in January of 2005 during the housing boom, but the higher number of sales helped fuel a sense of hopefulness for real estate professionals heading into the new year. In all of 2011, sales of existing homes increased 4.2% from 2010. Lower-priced homes made up most of the four-county sales market, according to analysis by the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. Even if the monthly sales trends appear to be improving, it's still a buyer's market. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Foreclosure Deal May Help States Prop Up Budgets, Raze Homes
Bloomberg Businessweek
Wisconsin plans to use part of its $140 million share of the national foreclosure settlement to fill a budget hole. Missouri would devote $40 million for education. Ohio wants to tear down vacant homes. Ninety percent of the $25 billion settlement announced Feb. 9 goes to borrowers, with states receiving at least $2.66 billion. Most states, especially those hit hard by foreclosures, probably will spend the money on related purposes instead of priorities that the public may not see as fitting the settlement's spirit. Hours after the settlement's announcement, Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker said that $25.6 million of the state's $140 million share would be put toward a projected $143 million deficit. Missouri has similar plans, saying $40 million of its $155 million settlement would be set aside to lessen cuts to colleges and universities. Bloomberg Businessweek

Student loan debt putting lives on hold - 'Nightmare' could lead to next economic crisis
The Journal Times
Jenni Guarascio loved running her own shoe and vintage clothing store in Chicago but she had to give it up.  She is among a growing number of people who took out loans for college degrees that were supposed to help secure good-paying jobs. But that plan isn't working in an economy with few employment opportunities and lower wages. It's a problem that for many like Guarascio means putting life on hold and racking up debt. It means rising student debt could be the next "debt bomb" to rock the economy. A survey of 860 bankruptcy attorneys nationwide found 81 percent have seen an increase in the number of potential clients with student loan debt and many said what they're noticing feels very much like just before the mortgage crisis, according to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. Borrowers who finished an undergraduate degree in 2010 owed an average of $25,250, up 5 percent from 2009, the association reported. The Journal Times

CFPB Eyes Overdraft Regs
Credit Union Times
CFPB Director Richard Cordray said his agency is discussing how best to proceed on additional regulations concerning overdraft protection and other checking account disclosures. The CFPB could issue proposed rules later this year. Cordray said the CFPB is worried about the practice by some financial institutions of clearing checks in a sequence that causes some consumers to pay higher overdraft charges. He noted that his agency can regulate practices but doesn't have the power to set the prices of financial products or to set interest rates. Cordray also said that the CFPB has already taken steps to minimize the impact of some regulations, such as those on remittances, on credit unions and other small financial institutions. Credit Union Times

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