Budget Bill Would Tap Into Unclaimed Property

Thursday, November 16th 2017, 7:01 pm

The state Senate will vote on the latest budget plan passed by the House of Representatives to bridge the state’s $215 million budget deficit. It includes taking money from Oklahomans through the Unclaimed Property Fund. 

In a massive vault in the capitol, and in various accounts, sits about $80 million in unclaimed property. It’s generally turned over by companies that owe money to Oklahomans but are legally required to turn it over to the State Treasurer’s office when no one claims the cash.

The Treasurer’s Office then tries to track down the rightful owners. But over the years, the legislature has used the fund to fill budget holes, knowing sometimes the rightful owners won’t be found.  

“The trick is finding the right balance between returning the money to the rightful owners and using some of it for public purpose. Frankly, in the last few years that’s been out of balance,” said Tim Allen, Deputy Treasurer for Communications. “We took over operations of the program in the year 2000. Since then, in those years, the legislature has used $305 million from the fund to help fill holes in the budget.”

The Treasurer’s office says it has enough cash to pay current claims, but says dipping into the funds to fix budget problems is a bad idea.