From staff and wire reports
The state’s coffers are getting a $3 million windfall from Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office.
Tennant’s office plans to return special revenue funds that it hasn’t spent, according to a letter that Tennant sent recently to Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss.
She attributed the excess funds to cost-saving measures and the settlement of two lawsuits for less money than the office expected.
“There was no reason to keep this money if I didn’t have the spending authority,” Tennant told the Charleston Gazette. “This is what the citizens ask of elected officials —to be good stewards of their money.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post and WV Metro News have reported Tennant, a Marion County native, is expected to announce next week her plans to run for the U.S. Senate.
Her likely opponent would be Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in a race for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
House Speaker Tim Miley said that he plans to meet next week with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. President Jeff Kessler to discuss how to use the money.
“It’s rare that an elected official would return excess funds to be re-appropriated as part of the budgetary process during the (next) legislative session,” Miley, D-Harrison, told the newspaper. “We’ll look at how we can use these unused funds for the benefit of the state.”
Tennant’s office had budgeted $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed in 2008 over West Virginia’s election laws. The lawsuit was settled for $765,000.
The office also plans to spend about $60,000, also less than budgeted, to settle another lawsuit that challenged the state’s limits on campaign spending and a policy addressing corporate spending.
“The bill didn’t come in as high as we thought it was,” Tennant said.
Cost-saving measures that Tennant listed in her letter to Kiss include sending out postcards instead of letters to remind businesses and organizations about filing deadlines. Other state agencies are notified about filings electronically instead of receiving a monthly paper corporations report.
Tennant said these changes saved about $100,000 last year.
Tennant said her office also is now processing business registration applications and licenses. These forms previously were handled by the state Tax Department.
“We now handle the paperwork here, so they don’t also have to go to the Tax Department,” Tennant said. “This is government working hand in hand and working efficiently.”