La. voters will decide if lawmakers can spend unclaimed property money on Nov. 3

La. voters will decide if lawmakers can spend unclaimed property money on Nov. 3
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana voters will decide whether lawmakers should spend unclaimed property money the state is supposed to be safeguarding.

Louisiana is watching over some $900 million that is ‘lost’ when checks go uncashed or refunds and land royalties are forgotten. Louisianans can claim the money, which belongs to them, at any point.

The state collects more money than it pays out each year, meaning there is always some cash left over. But instead of saving the leftover money for its owners, lawmakers have funneled it into the state budget to pay for education and health care costs.

“This program was never created for government’s use,” Treasurer John Schroder said. “Nobody ever stopped to question it because there was never any reason to. It was just working.”

But new technology has helped the state find more unclaimed property owners, meaning money is flowing out of the fund faster. Twice, Schroder did not have enough cash on hand to pay people who made claims on time.

“It’s like going to a bank with a check... and the bank says, ‘Well, the check is good but can you come back in five or six weeks? We don’t have the money right now,” Schroder said.

It’s why he’s backing constitutional amendment seven, a compromise that would lock the unclaimed money in a savings account lawmakers could not tap, though they would be able to spend the interest the fund earned.

“It’s like lagniappe,” he said. “We can still hold it and keep it for the citizens, but the state can utilize the money. In 20 years, it could be kicking off about $40 million a year (in interest).”

Schroder says the trust fund would ensure people get their money on time, while also giving lawmakers more money to budget with without raising taxes.

Election day is Nov. 3.

WAFB’s Matt Houston will have more on this story on 9News at 4,5, and 6.

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