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Treasurer Perdue: $27 million transfer to close budget gap won't hurt operations

State Treasurer John Perdue told legislators Tuesday that with $41 million of assets in the state’s unclaimed property account, he felt confident in increasing the contribution from that account to the state general revenue fund from $7 million to $17 million.

“We felt like we were comfortable moving another $10 million to the general revenue fund,” Perdue told the Senate Finance Committee.

In a joint news conference with Gov. Jim Justice Monday, Perdue announced that his office would be transferring a total of $27 million to help close what is currently a $33 million shortfall in the 2020-21 state budget.

In a typical year, unclaimed property will pay out $15 million to $20 million of assets to rightful property owners, and have operating expenses of about $4 million.

By law, the treasurer’s office is the state repository for unclaimed property, including contents of safe deposit boxes, uncashed checks, and unredeemed stock and utility deposits.

Perdue said any funds unused when the last participants in a prepaid college tuition program complete college in 2022 will go into unclaimed property. Enrollment in that program, administered by the treasurer’s office, closed in 2002, in part because Perdue said it was no longer viable once the Promise scholarship program launched that year.

The treasurer’s office continues to administer the Smart 529 college savings plan, which currently has $2.7 billion in assets and about 118,000 student accounts, Perdue said.

The office also administers the state Retirement Plus program, a 457(b) retirement savings similar to 401(k) plans available to private-sector employees.

He said the plan currently has 19,000 participants from state, county and local government agencies, and assets of $267 million.

During the budget presentation, Sen. Rollen Roberts, R-Raleigh, grilled Perdue over the treasurer’s office’s public relations and marketing contract with the Manahan Group, the Charleston firm that has worked in Perdue’s election campaigns.

“The Manahan Group has always run my campaigns for years and years,” Perdue said. “I can’t stop him from bidding on a public contract.”

Deputy Treasurer Gina Joynes said the marketing contract is rebid every three to five years, and said there were at least four other bidders when the Manahan Group was awarded the contract three years ago.

Conversely, Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, praised the treasurer’s office, telling Perdue, “I challenge anybody here to find any state agency that has given us the return on investment that your office has.”

Also Tuesday, state Auditor J.B. McCuskey said that with increased state Purchasing Card rebates, changes in Security Commission fees, and an office reorganization, the auditor’s office is returning about $10 million a year to the state budget.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, also thanked McCuskey for working with cities and counties in the Eastern Panhandle to identify funding sources to contribute the local share of funding needed to continue MARC commuter rail service into the panhandle.

McCuskey said his office is already working with mayors and county commissioners to come up with next year’s funding for the commuter service.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

Funerals for Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Blume, James - 2 p.m., Wallace & Wallace, Rainelle.

Gunnoe, Freda - Noon, Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Hunt, Lloyd - 1 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Rogers, Christopher - 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Buffalo.

Shepherd, Camella - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Smith, James - 2 p.m., Fox Hill Cemetery, South Charleston.

Turley, Imogene - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Webb, Barbara - 11 a.m., Ellyson Mortuary, Glenville.