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Eye On Boise

Wasden: Further cuts will ‘place state’s legal position in peril,’ cost more than they save

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden tells lawmakers that his office has taken significant budget cuts, and any further cuts will
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden tells lawmakers that his office has taken significant budget cuts, and any further cuts will "place the state's legal position in peril." (Betsy Russell)

"We all must face the reality of the current budget situation," Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden told legislative budget writers this morning. Holdbacks on the attorney general's budget so far have cut $2.8 million, he said. "My office is operating on a razor-thin margin. ... By March 31 we will have 21 vacant positions ... a 10 percent reduction." In addition, furloughs are being imposed equal to shutting down the office for three weeks, and overall pay is being cut 5.6 percent. "Further holdbacks will cost the state more dollars than any savings that you make through holdbacks, place the state's legal position in peril and limit my office's ability to fulfill its constitutional requirement of representing Idaho's legal interests," Wasden said. "My office cannot simply refuse to defend the state in a lawsuit, nor can I refuse to provide the state with legal advice."

When Idaho is sued, he noted, the state can use the Attorney General's office lawyers at a rate of $57 per hour, hire outside counsel for $125 to $200 per hour, or "confess error and pay damages" that can amount to millions of dollars. "In every scenario, the state pays for legal services," Wasden said. He noted, "As the economy weakened, the legal needs of the state have increased." The attorney general said he's withdrawn all request for more staffing for next year, but is "seriously concerned" about the impact of any further cuts.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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