In an effort to help the state close what is currently a $33 million hole in the 2019-20 state budget, state Treasurer John Perdue announced Monday that his office will increase its statutory transfers to general revenue this year to $27 million.
That includes the transfer of $17 million of unclaimed property assets deemed to be abandoned by their owners — $7 million of which is already built into the base budget — and $10 million of interest earnings on the more than $16 billion of assets in accounts managed by the treasurer’s office.
“That will surely help us…trying to get right-side up,” Gov. Jim Justice said during a news conference to announce the funding transfers. “Year-to-date, we’re still tailing a little behind.”
While the transfers are not unusual — Perdue said that during his tenure as treasurer, the treasurer’s office has transferred a total of $150 million from unclaimed property to the general revenue budget — the timing is propitious, with both Justice and Perdue seeking re-election to their respective offices this year.
Although Perdue and Justice are from different sides of the aisle politically, Perdue on Monday praised Justice for his leadership, and said he was moved by Justice’s State of the State address last Wednesday.
Added Justice, “We stand here first and foremost as West Virginians, not first and foremost as Republicans and Democrats in a food fight.”
While the transfer helps close the current budget shortfall, the administration’s six-year forecast in the state financial plan projects budget deficits of $170 million in 2020-21, $158 million in 2021-22, and $164.3 million in 2022-23.
Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said the forecasts use the assumption that there are no changes to the budget — either in the form of new revenue or spending cuts — in the intervening time.
“They’re there to keep our focus on what will happen if nothing changes in the budget, but we know the Legislature and the revenue numbers are always going to change,” he said.