News: Quick Takes

Lawmaker wants to know how much money agencies are squirreling away

Sen. Andy Wells, R-Catawba, wants know how much state taxpayer money agencies are spending for unintended purposes.

During debate Thursday on House Bill 403, Wells joined other senators in criticizing the nearly $1 billion in reserve funds held by the seven state-designated Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations. The LME/MCOs administer regional services for mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The money is a sore point for lawmakers, who believe the money should go to services for the untreated and undertreated.

“This isn’t isolated to LME/MCO issues,” Wells said.

He cited $350 million a year in state sales tax refunds given to nonprofits on top of local tax exemptions. He was particularly concerned about fees paid to state professional licensing boards.

Operators pay the boards annual fees for licensing.

Wells sees a pattern among the organizations that stockpile huge reserves.

“A CEO can say, ‘I’m a great financial manager. Look at all of the reserves that I have accumulated. That means I’m good. I want a raise,’” Wells said.

He suggested a study about the relationship between the reserves and the salaries of CEOs.