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Idaho Lt. Gov. McGeachin to finish year with budget deficit

UPDATED: Mon., May 9, 2022

By Keith Riddler Associated Press

BOISE – Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is running for governor against incumbent Republican Brad Little, has a $2,000 budget deficit in her office that will have to come out of next year’s appropriation.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show the state controller’s office planning to withhold McGeachin’s salary by the amount of the shortfall this fiscal year that ends June 30.

The lieutenant governor’s salary is set by law, limiting state officials’ ability to cut her pay. The controller’s office would make up that $2,000 cut next fiscal year in McGeachin’s budget.

McGeachin’s budget problems began when she ignored advice from the Idaho attorney general’s office to make records public to journalists who had requested them.

She instead hired a private attorney to keep secret feedback from people regarding her Education Task Force, which was tasked with investigating alleged “indoctrination” in the state’s public school system, something McGeachin said was necessary to “protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism.”

Many of the comments opposed the task force, with some people saying that McGeachin was supporting censorship. Others said children need to learn history and how to think critically.

McGeachin lost in court and was ordered to pay $29,000 in legal fees, which she paid.

A letter on Friday from the state controller’s office to Alex Adams, Idaho Division of Financial Management administrator, said McGeachin after the court loss and legal fees failed to take measures to avoid running a deficit.

“No immediate action was taken by the Lt. Governor or staff to adjust personnel plans resulting in a projected overspend of appropriation,” the letter states.

McGeachin’s office didn’t immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press on Monday.

McGeachin ultimately did take actions to reduce initial shortfall projections, but they weren’t enough, the state controller’s office said in the letter.

She also asked lawmakers earlier this year for more money to cover the legal fees and take care of the budget deficit.

But the Republican-dominated budget-setting committee declined to take up McGeachin’s request, approving a budget of $202,000 for the office for next fiscal year that starts in July but omitting her request for $29,000 for this fiscal year.

If McGeachin continues to overspend, any deficit she leaves would become the responsibility of the next lieutenant governor coming into office in January. The current state controller plan depends on McGeachin being fiscally responsible.

“In fiscal year 2023,” Joshua Whitworth of the state controller’s office wrote to Adams, “upon awareness of the Lt. Governor’s actions early to represent fiscal responsibility towards the available appropriation set by the Legislature, the State Controller’s Office will work to make whole the Lt. Governor’s pay appropriate to the 2022 calendar year set amount set in Idaho Code.”

Adams on Monday sent the state controller’s letter to McGeachin. In a letter to McGeachin last week, Adams called the situation “unprecedented.”

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