CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says his office has returned about $16.5 million to the state's General Fund since he took office.

That figure includes $9 million that the AG's office agreed to return to the state coffers last week. According to a release from Morrisey's office, the Legislature will use the money to plug a hole in the budget and fund the Medicaid Aged and Disabled Waiver Program, enabling senior citizens and people with disabilities to receive necessary health care at home rather than in a nursing home.

Earlier this month, the House Finance Committee had proposed to take $12 million from the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Fund and transfer it to the General Fund to cover other programs. That bill didn't pass, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called the Legislature into special session to finalize the state budget.

During the special session, the Legislature's joint budget committee passed a budget that took the $9 million from the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Fund.

“I have always believed that the Legislature should control the power of the purse and that the Attorney General should return settlement money to the General Fund while maintaining appropriate resources for the Consumer Protection Division,” Morrisey said in a statement.

Under an agreement reached last year with the Legislature and Governor’s Office, any unencumbered settlement moneys received by the Attorney General’s Office will be returned to the state as long as the Consumer Protection Division maintains three years of operating revenue ($12.3 million).

As a result of that agreement, the AG's office returned $7.5 million in settlement money to the state in FY 2012-13 and will return many millions more this fiscal year.

“This agreement ensures our Office’s ability to educate citizens about scams, investigate claims of wrongdoing, and prosecute those who try to take advantage of our friends and neighbors,” Morrisey said. “But it also ensures that any extra money coming in be returned to the people of the state and not used by one Office for special projects or programs.

"This money is the people’s money. It rightfully should be returned to the General Fund to benefit all citizens and taxpayers."

Morrisey also stressed his idea of eliminating fraud and waste in government.

“In tough economic times, it is essential that all state agencies, entities and offices take every step possible to ensure taxpayers are getting the best value for their money and that instances of fraud, waste or abuse are eliminated,” Morrisey said. “Each dollar our Office can return to the state from a settlement is one less dollar that has to be taken out of the Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget.

"This is a positive step that helps West Virginia as we strive to make lasting reforms that will revolutionize our economy.”

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