From the Deputy: 2012 Successes & 2013 Plans
We start with this: “Unlike the message coming out of Washington, I believe that putting more money in the hands of the people — instead of the government — is good for the economy.”
– Gov. Scott Walker, during his annual State of the State address January 17, 2012.
I took those words to heart and keep them in mind as I look ahead at what is to come in 2013. I want to share with you a goal of mine and the Treasurer’s for this office, a pledge if you will. The Office of the State Treasurer (OST) will return $100 million dollars to the people of Wisconsin and state businesses in a combined three year period. This stimulus plan puts a significant amount of money back in the pockets of people who need it without borrowing a dime or raising taxes. We continue to operate using interest earned from our Treasury account and never use taxpayer dollars from the general fund.
Our returns for the past 2 years provide a strong foundation for this pledge. In 2012, we returned a record $35 million to rightful owners and heirs, as you’ve read on the first page. In 2011, OST returned more than $33.5 million in unclaimed funds – another record. That means in 2013 we plan to return at least $31.5 million. It is our belief we will exceed that based on the performance of this office.
This type of success can be directly attributed to the dedication and extraordinary efforts of our State Treasury staff. We have only four claims representatives who processed nearly 40,000 claims for Unclaimed Property in the past twelve months. In 2012, states such as Georgia and West Virginia, which have twice the staff, did not process half the number of claims we did, nor did they return as much missing money (approximately $10 million less). Arguably, Wisconsin has the most efficient claims process in the country.
Why am I sharing this with you? Three of those four claims positions are project positions which require renewal every two years. OST is working with the Legislature to convert those positions from project to permanent. Projections show a significant and steady increase in claims as we move forward requiring those people remain in place.
Our “to do” list does not end with topping off the 3 year cycle by merely returning $100 million to Wisconsinites. We will renew our partnerships with other agencies to identify additional owners of missing money. We will reach out to the business community in ways never before seen with OST to increase holder compliance… getting businesses to turn over property so we can locate its rightful owner or heir. And we continue to expand our community outreach efforts.
In 2011, OST created an ongoing partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and Employee Trust Funds to identify veterans and retirees with unclaimed property. This year, we continue to build our partner network by adding efforts with the Department of Administration as well. Our plan is to locate more veterans, retirees and current state employees who have abandoned assets in our Treasury.
We mentioned growing our efforts in holder reporting with Wisconsin’s 150,000 registered businesses. Currently, there are fewer than 3,000 such companies which submit unclaimed property holder reports to our agency. We are seeking compliance from ALL businesses.
Lastly, in 2013 our communications department will ramp up its already extraordinary efforts. You can expect to see even more television coverage, print coverage, social media, and face to face contact with the public. We will open our office doors for tours. Our Communications Director already reserved our spot at several county fairs and the Wisconsin State Fair. We will launch social technology rarely seen in government. These plans come in the wake of a very successful past two years with Community Outreach. The Treasurer’s office held more than 80 Community Outreach events to raise public awareness of this office and its programs. Many of these events were shared through various media outlets such as local Wisconsin newspapers, radio and television stations. We kicked off 2013 with the same tenacity. In the past month, our office was profiled in the “Huffington Post” and on “AOL Daily Finance.” Click here to read. We continue to receive television attention. ABC News’ “Good Morning America” put us on air a handful of times. Most recently, on January 17th, we presented $26k to a Franklin woman on the show in New York City. Click here to see video. This type of exposure is crucial to educating people about our programs and how accessible information is on our website (www.wismissingmoney.com).
We welcome 2013 with tremendous excitement as we continue to push forward our mission. The Office of the State Treasurer manage more than $450 Million. We are all here to serve the people of Wisconsin while not costing them one tax dollar. Please celebrate the New Year with us as it brings great change, promise, and progress to the State of Wisconsin.
-Scott Feldt, Deputy Treasurer