By Matt Young, West Virginia Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Senate Finance Committee, on Monday, heard budget presentations from the offices of the Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Auditor for the upcoming fiscal year.
First to present was Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, who began by explaining his office’s “outside counsel” policy.
“We’ve saved, to date, $37 million,” Morrissey began. “That’s as a result of our competitive bidding policy, and doesn’t actually include any of the savings that we will derive from all of the opioid work that has been done.”
According to Morrissey, under previous attorneys general, outside counsel was paid “32 to 40%” above the in-house hourly rate, adding, “We’ve made phenomenal progress in saving the taxpayers money.”
Morrisey then spoke briefly of the successful partnership between his office, the Social Security Administration, and the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), advising the committee that more than $34 million has been saved through the identification of disability fraud.
“Then of course, there is fighting Medicaid fraud,” Morrisey added, noting that some 40 cases of potential fraud have been referred to county prosecutors since the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) was placed under the control of the Attorney General’s Office in 2019. “We’ve now passed our three-year period, and MFCU has secured more than $74 million in recoveries for the Medicaid program.”
With regards to recent opioid litigation, Morrisey said that West Virginia has achieved the highest per capita settlements in the nation, by “rejecting the national settlements, and pursuing West Virginia-specific settlements.” According to Morrissey, two additional opioid cases are currently awaiting litigation.
Morrissey then took a moment to applaud the United States District Court for upholding West Virginia’s ban on biological males participating in sports with biological females, saying, “I think he (federal judge) got it right. I think he understood the distinction between men and women. We poured a massive amount of time into that case defending your work product.”
Regarding his department’s upcoming fiscal year budget proposal, Morrissey told the committee that he is requesting an increase of $47,765 over last year in order for the state to maintain its 25% share of the costs associated with the MFCU. The remainder of the funding for the MFCU is provided by the federal government. Morrissey’s total requested budget appropriation for the upcoming fiscal year is $5.203 million.
Next to present was W.Va. State Auditor John B. “J.B.” McCuskey, who said, “Our request this year is $2.487 million. This represents the fifth year in a row that we’ve not asked for an increase, and is roughly a $450,000 decrease from the appropriation that my office received in my first year.”
McCuskey noted that the Office of the State Auditor currently employs 164 individuals, which is down from 211 employees at the time of his election.
In response to a question from Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, pertaining to the state’s use of purchasing cards, McCuskey said, “We just hit the $100 million mark of money that we’ve returned to the General Revenue Fund since I started.”
“When I became auditor, we bid out the local purchasing cards for the first time ever,” McCuskey explained. “A new bank – U.S. Banks – won the bid and they have steadily increased our rebate that we receive.”
“[Purchasing cards offer] a million dollars of insurance on every purchase,” McCuskey added. “But more importantly, it pushes every single expenditure through our artificial intelligence (AI) platform that combs through hundreds of thousands of pieces of data, and enables us to find government fraud in a way that is about six-weeks faster than if somebody writes a check.”
The day’s final presenter, Secretary of State Mac Warner, began with a staffing overview.
As of 2023, the Secretary of State’s office was budgeted for 52 full time employees. At present, 48 positions are filled, one position is being actively recruited, and three positions have been left intentionally vacant. The four vacant positions carry an annual salary of between $32,000 and $64,000.
“Our goals for this coming year – we’re going to launch the statewide voter recognition system (SVRS),” Warner said. The SVRS, once implemented, would serve as a standard, centralized registration method for residents of every county in West Virginia. “This is the most modern mapping system that we’ve already implemented with last year’s primary.”
Warner also hopes to “expand the business One Stop Portal with various participating agencies,’’ as well as create a “knowledge transfer opportunity for multi-agency consumption.”
Warner’s Deputy Secretary and Chief of Staff Chuck Flannery then advised the committee that “There are no significant changes” over the previous year in the office’s current budget request.