|Gov. John Bel Edwards sued Louisiana's state treasurer Friday for blocking a $25 million fund transfer the governor and lawmakers earmarked for government operating expenses, asking the courts to settle who has ultimate authority over the dollars.
Republican state Treasurer John Schroder repeatedly said if the Democratic governor wanted to spend the unclaimed property dollars included in the state's budget, he'd have to take him to court. After months of disagreement, Edwards complied, filing the lawsuit requesting a judge to declare Schroder's actions are illegal.
Lawmakers appropriated the unclaimed property dollars in Louisiana's $30 billion-plus operating budget. But Schroder has refused to shift the money for spending, and he similarly blocked a $15 million fund transfer last year.
“He doesn't have the discretion not to abide by an appropriation that has been lawfully made by the Legislature,” the governor said ahead of the lawsuit's filing in Baton Rouge district court.
Louisiana collects unclaimed dollars from old savings accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil royalty payments and utility deposits on behalf of residents. The treasurer's office, designated as custodian of the property, tries to locate people owed the cash and return the money.
Though governors and lawmakers for decades have spent money from the unclaimed property escrow account on programs and services, Schroder said he and his office's lawyers don't believe Louisiana law permits the transfers.