Unclaimed properties give state budget a holiday boost

This year’s state budget may have been pushed back into the black this week, thanks to thousands of unclaimed bank accounts and other financial assets that have fallen into the state’s coffers.

State Treasurer Denise L. Nappier reported this week that revenues from unclaimed properties should reach $92 million this fiscal year, $42 million above the level originally projected in this year’s $19.01 billion state budget.

The new estimate also is about $22 million higher than the figure used Dec. 1 when Comptroller Nancy Wyman certified an $18 million budget deficit. But whether the comptroller’s Jan. 1 budget forecast will include a surplus or deficit also will depend on larger revenue and spending trends.

“Indeed, were it not for unclaimed property, the state’s budget crisis would no doubt be worse off than it is,” Nappier said.

This bonus has no impact on the $3.67 billion deficit that is being forecast for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That deficit, which Gov.-elect Dan Malloy must address in the budget proposal he will submit to the General Assembly in February, is equal to nearly one-fifth of current spending.

But it could mean that the budget Gov. M. Jodi Rell will hand off to Malloy when her term ends on Jan. 5 will feature a surplus.

Unclaimed property includes cash, bank accounts, securities, utility deposits and other assets that have gone unclaimed for three years, after which they must be turned over the state’s General Fund.

But that doesn’t mean individuals, businesses and other organizations can’t reclaim those assets. The treasurer’s office operates an interactive Web site at www.ctbiglist.com which provides a search engine, downloadable claim forms and information on more than 934,000 owners and $550 million in unclaimed property amassed over the years.

“The state and its citizens benefit from unclaimed revenues going to the General Fund – especially when there are revenues in decline,” Nappier said. “But we never lose sight of the fact that those monies rightfully belong to someone, and we take seriously our obligation to return those monies.”

The treasurer added that given the difficult economy and the added expenses tied to the holiday season, residents and businesses should take time this month to check the Web site. “During these difficult times, with so many people out of work and the holidays around the corner, what better time to find out that the state may have money that belongs to you,” she said.

Property refunds also are on pace to exceed expectations this year. While $25 million to $30 million typically is refunded on an annual basis, more than $25 million was returned to 9,700 owners through the first five months of this fiscal year.