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PA Sits on $4B in ‘Unclaimed Property.’ Garrity Wants to Give it Back

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has $4 billion in other people’s money sitting in its coffers. State Treasurer Stacy Garrity wants to do something unusual with it.

She wants the government to give it back.

The state has created a “Money Match” program that would “automate the process of returning unclaimed property to rightful owners.”

“One of my top priorities has always been to return as much unclaimed property as possible to rightful owners,” Garrity told DVJournal.

“This is not our money; it belongs to hard-working Pennsylvanians,” she said. “Money Match will get more money to Pennsylvanians faster than ever before without any action by the person themselves.”

“It actually removes red tape – which is unheard of in government.”

The Treasury said “unclaimed property” includes things like dormant bank accounts, claims payments, accounts payable, uncashed checks, insurance policies, contents of forgotten safe deposit boxes, and more.

The state requires businesses to report funds of those types if they’ve laid dormant in accounts for three years. There has been a surge in unclaimed property flowing into Pennsylvania’s coffers recently, from $343 million in 2020 to $417 million last year.

The government is holding over $4 billion in unclaimed funds.

Normally, Pennsylvania residents must go through a lengthy process to recover any money that has ended up in the unclaimed account. The Money Match program will allow them to reclaim those funds after the state confirms their identity.

The measure will only apply to funds in amounts below $5,000. Any unclaimed money over that amount must follow the earlier, lengthier reclamation procedure.

The Treasury told DVJ that over 95 percent of unclaimed funds are less than $5,000.

The bill received backing from multiple state senators, including the Delaware Valley’s John Kane and Frank Farry, and has strong bipartisan support. It passed the GOP-controlled Senate unanimously. It currently sits in the House Finance Committee.

The state says 10 percent of Pennsylvanians have unclaimed property in the government’s coffers. Some residents use property recovery professionals to help return their funds. The Treasury stipulates that such individuals must “be certified as a finder by the Pennsylvania Treasury.”

The Treasury has held events to auction off unclaimed property in its holdings in the past.

Its most recent sale in April saw the auctioning of over 4,000 items, including “a 14K two-tone gold stick pin brooch with 2-carat diamond,” “multiple Engelhard 100 Troy ounce 999+ fine silver bars,” a gold George Melleze pocket watch, and “various comic books and magazines.”

Proceeds from the auction “will be carefully tracked,” Garrity said at the time, “and will always be available for the rightful owner to claim any time, even years or decades from now.”

On its website, the Treasury stresses it wishes to return the funds to their rightful owners as quickly as possible.

“Let’s be clear,” the department says, “this is YOUR money we’re talking about, and we don’t want to keep it.”

BACKER: Which Costs More and Scares You Less — Halloween or the 2022 Election?

Many Americans will spend October stoking fear and building tension, with no shortage of blood-curdling screams. Then there’s Halloween.

Over two years, more than $9 billion will be spent on Election 2022. Money will be thrown at Americans to get them to choose between political candidates and parties, just like it will be spent on Marvel costumes, candy corn and the rest. Between the midterm elections and Halloween celebrations, U.S. spending will total upward of $20 billion, dominating public discourse.

While Halloween spending is driven by market demand and impervious to criticism (as it should be), election-related spending drives some people crazy. Spending money to promote your ideas is far scarier than Halloween to those whose ideas your particular spending may oppose.

Campaign finance “reform” is now a priority of the Democratic Party, with End Citizens United spokesman Adam Bozzi claiming “it’s both good policy and good politics.” (Side note: End Citizens United, as a nonprofit organization, does not disclose its donors.)

The left’s insistence on shutting down free speech and free association is strangely obsessive when it comes to politics. It seems like only speech and association that has to do with the electoral system and the democratic process are worth condemning, despite the fact that they form the very foundations of our democracy.

What is democracy but your freedom to organize and communicate on behalf of your ideas? And yes, meaningful communication requires spending money — something Democrats have no problem with so long as their ideas are communicated.

But, as long as you’re not spending money on politics, it’s quite all right. And, yes, a Marvel Halloween is quite all right. Consumerism is a good thing, just like money in politics is a good thing. In fact, American politics needs more money in it, not less, because political spending is associated with the free flow of ideas. It reflects public discourse in the idea marketplace, with the most popular ones (like Marvel) dominating the discourse while the least popular ones (sorry Green Lantern) ultimately fade away. Similarly, candy choices with the most appeal attract the most consumer dollars, while the organic alternatives get thrown away.

That’s the whole point. The market is the ultimate freedom: Taking the product of your own hard work (or that of your parents) and spending it on whatever ideas — or candy — you may choose.  In politics, good ideas attract money, just like sugary candy attracts the most kids.

Winning candidates and political parties draw attention from donors large and small. Of course, losing ones (i.e., Michael Bloomberg) can flood the political system with billions of dollars, but money is no guarantee of victory. Bloomberg knows that better than most, and plenty of candy ideas are just as flawed. But some people liked Bloomberg, and the “top 10 worst candies ever” list is admittedly rife with my childhood favorites!

So why shouldn’t we be free to choose, in any marketplace, what’s right for us?

No amount of money will get Americans to embrace ideas that aren’t actually popular, just like you can’t pay me enough to eat Hot Tamales for Halloween.

The amount of money in politics is a barometer of civic engagement writ large, and civic engagement is inherently beneficial to democracy. A democratic system can’t function without it. The more money spent, the more people are engaged, and the more ideas compete to curry favor in the marketplace. Like in the U.S. economy and on candy shelves, competition leads to greater consumer choice and personal freedom.

Here’s a tip leading to Election Day: Don’t listen to those crying wolf about political spending. Keep dressing up as Spiderman, keep eating your Skittles, and keep contributing to American democracy.

Free speech and free association are every bit as sweet as candy corn.

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