Treasurer paints bleak budget picture

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON -- Although local leaders were glad to hear state Treasurer Richard Moore talk about the state budget at Tuesday's Rotary Club meeting, they probably were more happy to hear that he brought $1,768.31 with him.
The money came from the state's unclaimed property program, which has about $400 million in unclaimed money from North Carolinians, according to Moore. His office searched the names of the Rotary members and came up with seven claims owed five people.
Moore also spoke briefly about the state's budget situation, which he said is horrendous. He said that the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, will be just as bad for the state as this year, which he said originally had a $1.5 billion hole in the state's $14 billion budget.
Moore attributed the state's financial problems to five factors that have eaten away at the state's reserves: health-care expenses, which he said include Medicaid, Medicare and state employees' health care; hurricanes; lawsuits; expenditures outgrowing revenues revenue; and less revenue than expected.
In recent years, Moore said, the state has spent about $1.5 billion in hurricane relief and another $1.5 billion in lawsuits over the intangibles tax and retirement payments. The state has spent $500 million more than expected on health care and those costs continue to balloon, he said.
“The expenditures are growing faster than the tax base,” Moore said. “Sixty-five cents on every dollar goes to K-12 education. At 95 cents on the dollar, it's also going to prison guards, public safety and health care. The last 5 percent goes to state departments like Department of Environment and Natural Resources.”
Moore said that revenue declined 7 percent, when the state had predicted that it would increase 4 to 6 percent.
Moore said there are four possible ways to fix the state budget. “We have to take more in, raise taxes; cut spending; or a combination of those two things,” he said.
Rotarian Harvey Godwin was impressed withMoore.
“What I find important is that he would come down here in person and tell us one on one what the problems with the state economy are and what he proposes to correct it,” Godwin said.
Moore made light of his accomplishments and position as chief trustee of the state's more than $60 billion, displaying his down-home Southern charisma and open smile like his well-tailored suit.
Unclaimed property
Moore was also promoting the unclaimed property program, which anyone can use for free simply by searching an on-line database at the department's Web site,
Unclaimed property comes from such sources as uncashed checks, abandoned deposits, bank accounts, refunds, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, unclaimed utility refunds. It goes to the Department of Commerce when it has been determined to be abandoned.
The unclaimed property fund is kept by the department and the interest from the fund is used by the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority, which gives out low-interest loans to N.C. students as financial aid.
Moore also made stops in Pembroke, where he taught a class at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and in Fairmont, where he helped honor Fairmont High School as one of the 10 most improved in the state.

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