BOISE – Gov. Butch Otter’s budget chief has apologized to state budget writers after accusing them of creating a slush fund to be used exclusively by the Idaho Legislature.
Jani Revier, who oversees Otter’s Division of Financial Management, wrote a letter to the Joint Finance Appropriation Committee criticizing a $22 million proposal designed to fund various technology projects across state agencies. An original version of the bill dictated the Legislature, not the executive branch, would be in charge of how the fund would be distributed.
“(The bill) does not allow agency funding requests or funding recommendations from the governor … This makes it difficult to interpret this as anything but the attempt to create a slush fund for use by the Legislature,” Revier wrote in her Wednesday letter.
The following day, Revier was questioned by lawmakers while attending the budget committee meeting.
“As I look up the definition of slush fund, it says a reserve of money to be used for illicit purposes, especially for political purposes,” said Rep. Neil Anderson, a Republican from Blackfoot. “Is that your perception? That this fund will be used for illicit purposes?”
Revier then walked back her accusation.
“In retrospect, that may not have been the best terminology to use,” Revier said. “I apologize. No offense was meant.”
The co-chairs of the influential budget panel say their proposal not only creates a $22 million fund, but it would help track technology updates. The proposal would also authorize legislative staffers to hire consultants to vet any technology project requests.
However, Revier says the proposal would prevent the governor’s office from making certain funding recommendations and conflict with processes currently in place.
“The hiring of consultants under this legislation falls outside the State Procurement Act making the selection potentially arbitrary and subject to political influence,” Revier wrote in her letter. “Having a consultant review a proposed project prior to the RFP could lead to attempted or perceived influence on vendors, the agency and legislators.”
Sen. Shawn Keough said that she is working to address the concerns raised by the governor’s office, including striking the section that sparked the “slush fund” accusation.
The bill is still in the early stages of the legislative process and has not yet had a full hearing.