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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘$0.72 remaining’: Idaho lieutenant governor balances office budget after shortfall

By Ryan Suppe Idaho Statesman

BOISE – Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin deferred most of her June 24 paycheck to balance her office’s budget, leaving the budget with less than $1 left before the 2022 fiscal year closed Thursday.

McGeachin faced a shortfall after using her taxpayer-funded operating budget to pay for $29,000 in legal fees. Most of the expenses covered attorney fees for the Idaho Press Club, which successfully sued McGeachin last year when she declined to hand over public records.

By June 24, the final payroll date of the fiscal year, the office was projected to have $724.42, according to a June 13 email from Chief Deputy Controller Joshua Whitworth, obtained by the Idaho Statesman.

Whitworth recommended that McGeachin defer $1,713.26 of her June 24 wages until the next fiscal year. That left $148.50 in her wages and $575.20 in benefits, which was able to be covered by the remaining office budget.

“This would close the fiscal year with an estimated $0.72 remaining in the appropriation budget for the office,” Whitworth wrote, although he noted that final amounts may vary based on tax and workers’ compensation rate adjustments.

McGeachin followed through with Whitworth’s recommendations, Alex Adams, administrator of the Idaho Division of Financial Management, told the Statesman by email. McGeachin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McGeachin will still receive the deferred pay, but not until the third payroll date of the 2023 fiscal year, which started Friday.

“This will ensure sufficient salary savings have been accrued to keep the office personnel budget whole through the fiscal year, and it will keep the office in compliance with the annual pay for the elected position,” Whitworth wrote.

McGeachin this spring cut staff as her office racked up at least $33,000 in operating expenses beyond what was budgeted.

Public records fight leads to McGeachin’s office shortfall

The Idaho Press Club last year won a lawsuit that sought the release of public records regarding McGeachin’s education task force, which was looking for indoctrination in Idaho schools. Reporters had requested responses to a Google Forms survey that McGeachin circulated earlier in the year soliciting public feedback, as well as additional records.

A judge mandated that McGeachin release the records and pay the Idaho Press Club’s legal costs. McGeachin eventually asked that taxpayers fund what her office was forced to pay, “due to unforeseen legal bills related to a lawsuit from the Idaho Press Club after the attorney general’s office failed to properly represent” her.

The lieutenant governor previously dismissed reports of her office’s shortfall as “fake news.”

“Honestly, who cares about $2,000 … in the lieutenant governor’s budget?” McGeachin said on April 21 while she was campaigning for governor. McGeachin lost in the Republican primary against Gov. Brad Little, who’s running for re-election.

The Idaho Legislature’s budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee declined to consider McGeachin’s $29,000 supplemental budget request to cover attorney fees.

McGeachin’s lieutenant governor term ends in the middle of the 2023 fiscal year. The winner in the November general election will take over the office in January.