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Speak Up for Justice at Wisconsin Budget Hearings

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Wisconsin's BudgetLet Your Voice Be Heard

Joint Finance Committee Budget Hearings April 7 in Stevens Point!

Tell the Committee That the Budget Must Support Social Justice!

When: Thursday, April 7 at 10:00 AM – SAVE THIS DATE

Where: The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Lee Dreyfus Center

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Legislative Action Day Videos Available

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Crowd walking from church to CapitolThree stirring videos from 2011 Legislative Action Day, held in Madison on March 15, are now available on ESTHER's YouTube channel – rousing talks by Rev. Steve Savides from First Congregational U.C.C., Appleton; Rev. Willie Brisco, president of MICAH, Milwaukee's WISDOM affiliate; and ELCA Bishop Bruce Burnside.


More than 400 people, including 35 from ESTHER, participated in the event, which was organized by the Wisconsin Council of Churches, WISDOM, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin, and Madison-area Urban Ministries. We were inspired, we learned, we rallied, we marched, and we visited with legislators to ask that our values as people of faith be respected in the shaping of public policy for our state.

WISDOM Statement on Worker Rights, Budget Repair Bill

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WISDOM, the interfaith network of congregation-based justice organizations, calls on Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature to abandon any plans to undermine or remove the collective bargaining rights of workers.


Our religious traditions speak clearly about the fundamental right of workers in the public and private sectors to be organized into unions which can defend their interests.  We are pleased to see that Methodist Bishop Lee, Catholic Archbishop Listecki, Rabbi Biatch and ELCA Bishop Burnside are among those who have spoken out against the radical policy changes being proposed in the “budget repair” process, which would take away long-established rights from many Wisconsin workers.


ESTHER / JOSHUA Interfaith Communities

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ESTHER, a WISDOM affiliate aims to stop predatory payday lending

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WISDOM Religious Leaders Call on the State of Wisconsin to Rid our State of Predatory Lending

As an organization of people of varied faith traditions, WISDOM believes that the regulation of lending practices in Wisconsin is a moral imperative. All of our faith traditions have a core belief that it is wrong for anyone to profit from the desperation of the most poor and needy on our midst. For example, the prophet Isaiah (3: 13-15) says:
The LORD arises to contend,
         And stands to judge the people.
 The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people,
         ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard;
         The plunder of the poor is in your houses.
    ‘What do you mean by crushing My people
         And grinding the face of the poor?’
         Declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
The Predatory Loan industry, often charging in excess of 500% interest on loans to the most economically disadvantaged among us, is clearly guilty of usury. Our own experience has shown us countless examples of needy people – often members of our religious communities – who have thought they were getting short-term help for a specific need, only to find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of interest payments and rollovers, until they have lost everything. 
We believe that it is imperative for the state of Wisconsin to enact serious regulation, which will cap interest rates, limit rollovers, and ensure that individuals will not be crushed by interest and unpayable debt. This is a political and economic issue, to be sure. But, it is a clear moral and religious issue – one that is addressed directly by the Sacred Scriptures and teachings of every one of our religious traditions.
No amount of lobbyists or campaign contributions can erase the clear moral and ethical imperative to protect the needy from the unscrupulous. 
WISDOM is comprised of 10 local congregation-based organizations around the state of Wisconsin. It includes more than 140 congregations, and 17 different religious traditions. WISDOM gathers diverse people to build stronger and more just communities.


ESTHER Area Legislative Contacts 2010

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State Senate

Robert Cowles
Room 319 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
Phone:(800) 334-1465
(920) 448-5092

Michael Ellis
Room 7 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
Phone: (608) 266-0718
(920) 751-4801

Randy Hopper
Room 108 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
Phone: (608) 266-5300

Alan Lasee
Room 130 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
Phone:(608) 266-3512
(920) 336-8830

Joe Leibham
Room 5 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
Phone:(888) 295-8750


State Assembly

Penny Bernard Schaber
Room 412 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (608) 266-3070

Gorden Hintz
Room 322 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (608) 266-2254
(920) 232-0805

Dean Kaufert
Room 15 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (888) 534-0055
(920) 729-0521

Tom Nelson
Room 214 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (888) 534-0005
(920) 759-7404

Alvin Ott
Room 323 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (888) 534-0003

Roger Roth
Room 316 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (608) 266-7500

Richard Spanbauer
Room 121 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
Phone: (888) 534-0053

U.S. Congressional Representatives

Steve Kagen
333 West College Ave
Appleton, WI 54911
Phone: (920) 380-0061

Tom Petri
490 West Rolling Meadows Drive, Suite B
Fond du Lac, WI, 54937
Phone: 800-242-4883

U.S. Senators

Russ Feingold
1600 Aspen Commons
Middleton, WI 53562-4716
Phone: (608) 828-1200

Herb Kohl
14 W. Mifflin St., Suite 207
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 264-5473

Wisconsin Governor

Jim Doyle
PO Box 7863 Madison, WI 53707
Phone: (608) 266-1212



DREAM Act 2009 Reintroduced - Learn More


Bill S.729 DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act 2009 has been introduced and sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL) and Senator Richard Lugar (R, IN) with 19 co sponsors including Sentator Feingold (D, WI). 

Learn More

Put a Cap on Predatory Lending - Payday Loans

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ESTHER along with WISDOM affiliates will push for a cap to be placed on lending interest rates issued by payday loan and predatory lenders.

  • Most predatory small dollar lenders only require a paycheck stub and photo ID to receive a loan. There are no underwriting standards to ensure a borrower’s ability to pay back the loan.
  • Predatory lenders charge triple-digit interest rates. Interest rates on a two-week loan average 550% APR compared to the average national credit card APR of 13%.
  • The short repayment term and triple digit interest trap borrowers on a debt treadmill that churns borrowers for more fees. More than 80% of borrowers get trapped as soon as the loan is due.

Representative Hintz and Senator Hansen have introduced the Predatory Lending Consumer Protection Act aimed at reducing interest rates on loans issued by payday lenders to 36%.

We are working to have this Act assigned to the Consumer Protection Committee so that we can move this issue forward. Assembly Speaker Michael Sheridan needs to hear that this is an issue affecting our communities.

In Madison on Wednesday, September 16th at 9:00am, ESTHER will join others from across Wisconsin to meet with our legislators.  The time to end predatory lending is now!

A briefing on predatory lending will be held followed by legislative visits where we can express our concerns and demands.  Consider joining ESTHER leaders on this day, carpooling will be available.  Share this information with those in your congregation that may be interested in ending predatory lending and ask that they join us as well. 

If you are interested in joining ESTHER, email us at  to get information on carpooling.


Help us build support. Agencies, businesses and organizations, CLICK HERE to join the statewide coalition.


Legislative Joint Finance Committee in Appleton on April 1

No foolin'! The committee was in session in Lawrence University's Stansbury Theatre from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Opening to a packed crowd, the meeting offered opportunities for citizens and interest groups to share their views and positions on items included in (or omitted from) the Governor's proposed 2010-11 budget. ESTHER was well represented. Gwen Gibson and Rev. Maynard Beemer spoke (see photo) on behalf of earned early release and drivers certificates for immigrants who cannot get driver's licenses because of RealID. Representatives from JOSHUA were also present and spoke.


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According to, Money Smart Week Wisconsin, a public awareness initiative, (October 10-17th) “aims to build your financial knowledge so you can deal with your own money more quickly, confidently and shrewdly. “
Appleton Area School District has received the 2009 award for best practices through the Council on Financial Literacy, established by Governor Jim Doyle, the group that oversees Money Smart Week.

Is Wisconsin smart with its money? There has been considerable talk in our local newspapers on payday lending, which begs the question, is payday lending smart money? After Wisconsin lifted its cap on lending, once set at 18% in the mid 1990’s, payday lending stores have taken our state by storm.

The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) sites that the average borrower pays $800 to borrow $300. As the borrower attempts to pay the loan back, they fall behind on living expenses and look for assistance in meeting basic needs. This puts a burden on our state and county budgets as well as social service organizations that provide food and assistance to cover rent and utilities.

Most payday lending locations are part of out-of-state franchises that have no commitment to community investment. Unlike most banks and credit unions, payday lending stores do not give back to the local community. Jobs created by these lending stores offer very low pay, little to no benefits and have high turnover rates.

Our Representatives and Senators need to hear that payday lending is a burden on our communities, it teaches citizens to become financially dependant rather than secure, and it is absolutely not money smart. We need a cap on payday lending.

ESTHER is collecting stories of those impacted by the negative practices of payday lending. If you or someone that you know has a story, please contact us. If you were an employee of a payday lending store, please contact us to share your experience.

For more information, visit:

Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending

Center for Responsible Lending

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