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Idaho Lt. Gov. McGeachin misses state deadline to submit plans to avoid budget shortfall

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin presides over the Senate at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021.  (Otto Kitsinger/Idaho Capital Sun)
By Clark Corbin Idaho Capital Sun

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin missed a state deadline to provide a written plan to avoid a budget shortfall for her office by the close of the business day on Wednesday.

On April 7, Idaho Division of Financial Management administrator Alex Adams sent McGeachin an email warning her that paying her salary and benefits will lead to a deficit of $2,283 at the end of the current 2022 fiscal year, according to public records obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun. The amount of the projected deficit has evolved over time as McGeachin has lost staff and the state has paused her vendor payments.

In the same email, Adams asked McGeachin to provide a written plan to avoid a budget deficit.

“Consistent with 67-3504(1), Idaho Code, I am requesting that you provide a written plan to your DFM analyst no later than close of business on April 13, 2022 on how you will ensure that expenditures do not exceed appropriation for your office,” Adams wrote in the email.

Adams also cited a section of Idaho law that empowers the Division of Financial Management administrator (who is essentially the state’s budget chief) to request and investigate reports of state budgets and expenditures.

The law requires McGeachin to respond.

“It is hereby made the duty of every department, officer, board, commission, or institution receiving appropriations from the legislature to furnish upon demand any and all information so requested by the administrator of the division,” the law states.

McGeachin is now working without a staff and may lose her salary and benefits

News of McGeachin’s projected budget shortfall is not new.

The shortfall is coming after a district court judge ordered McGeachin to pay almost $29,000 to the Idaho Press Club in 2021 for legal fees following a public records lawsuit McGeachin lost. McGeachin declined to release records related to her 2021 education task force, and the Idaho Press Club filed suit to obtain the records and won.

McGeachin said she could not afford to pay the legal fees out of her budget and asked the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to approve a supplemental funding request to cover the legal fees. JFAC never took up McGeachin’s supplemental funding request.

In a statement issued Oct. 14, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office said McGeachin’s decision to stop working with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and hire her own private attorney are the reasons why her actions cost the taxpayers money. State records show the state paid the Idaho Press Club $28,973.84 via a check on Oct. 29, the Sun previously reported.

State officials have now been warning McGeachin about the shortfall since at least March 11, the Sun has previously reported. But the projected deficit may now cost her some of her salary and require her to pay for her health insurance benefits at the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.

In a March 11 email to McGeachin and her former chief of staff, Idaho Division of Financial Management deputy administrator David Fulkerson warned that McGeachin was facing a budget shortfall that he calculated at about $22,000 at the time, the Sun previously reported.

At that time, McGeachin had two employees, including her former full-time chief of staff Jordan Watters, who offered to resign at the end of the 2022 legislative session, which would reduce payroll expenses, the Sun previously reported. However, Idaho Division of Human Resources records show Watters was terminated March 22, before the session adjourned on March 31.

McGeachin now does not have any staff working during the April 15 pay period, according to an April 7 email from Chief Deputy State Controller Joshua Whitworth to McGeachin. But even without having a staff to pay and the state pausing all vendor payments from McGeachin’s office until the 2023 budget kicks in July 1, McGeachin is still facing a deficit, Whitworth wrote.

“Additionally, please note that to continue your health insurance coverage, you may need to arrange payment for the employee and employer portions of the premium for any pay period where there are not sufficient funds for covering the premium,” Whitworth wrote to McGeachin in the April 7 email, which the Sun obtained.

McGeachin did not respond to a phone message the Sun left at her office on Wednesday, and she did not respond to multiple email and telephone messages seeking comment about her projected budget shortfall that the Sun has left since April 4.

On March 22, Whitworth emailed McGeachin telling her state law and the State Controller’s Office’s constitutional duties prevent them from spending money beyond what is budgeted for her office, the Sun previously reported.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.