BOISE (Idaho Capital Sun) – The Legislative Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee returns to the Idaho Capitol in Boise this week for three days of hearings to consider state budget requests, review federal stimulus funds and prepare for the next legislative session.
The Joint Finance-Credit Committee meets on Tuesday at 9 a.m. and meetings are also scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
On Tuesday afternoon, committee lawmakers could also begin to consider Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s $ 50,000 supplementary estimates request for taxpayers to cover her recent legal bills. On Monday, four Idaho Democrats sent a letter to McGeachin requesting more information for the budget request. Officials with the Idaho Financial Management Division also requested more information from the lieutenant governor about the request.
Although the Legislative Assembly is not in session, the JFAC traditionally meets during the offseason to provide its members with additional opportunities to keep abreast of complicated budget and income developments.
Rep. Wendy Horman, a Republican from Idaho Falls and a long-time JFAC member who for years helped draft public school budgets, said this week’s meetings gave her and the other committee members , a chance to dive deep into the budget without the outside pressure and the urgency that comes when the legislature is in session.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Horman said in a telephone interview. “I like these meetings where we have time to really dig into the requests of the agencies. In a way, sometimes we don’t have that much time during the session to ask all the questions.
JFAC members will dive on Tuesday with an agenda that includes:
- An update on the general fund.
- A review of income and reserve fund balances.
- An update on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the federal COVID-19 stimulus plan.
- A review of 2023 state agency budget requests.
- An update on the 2022 supplementary budget requests from agencies and government officials.
JFAC May Respond to McGeachin Supplementary Budget Request of $ 50,000
The final item could be watched closely if lawmakers delve deep into Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s additional request for $ 50,000 for taxpayers to pay her external legal bills resulting from a lawsuit for access to documents that Idaho Press Club filed and won in court.
In response to requests for public documents filed by the Idaho Capital Sun, McGeachin’s office said it could not find any invoices or records for any of its legal invoices.
“After a diligent search, we cannot find any invoices,” McGeachin chief of staff Jordan Watters wrote in an October 8 email.
McGeachin tweeted a response on Friday: “We can’t find what we don’t have and we don’t have any invoices.”
Additional state documents obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun show that officials from the Idaho Financial Management Division also asked McGeachin for more information on his additional request.
A Financial Management Division analyst wrote to McGeachin’s office in September to tell Watters that Idaho law requires state officials to be represented by the attorney general’s office. The analyst asked if McGeachin’s office could provide invoices and Watters responded on Oct. 8, writing that the invoices were “not currently available,” according to emails obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun.
So far, McGeachin’s office has not responded to several questions from the Idaho Capital Sun about how she framed her additional $ 50,000 request. Last week, District Judge Steven Hippler ordered McGeachin to pay $ 28,973.84 in costs and expenses incurred by the Idaho Press Club.
On Monday, the four Idaho Democrats on the JFAC sent McGeachin a letter requesting additional information about his $ 50,000 request “before considering your office’s $ 50,000 supplementary budget request.”
Democrats have demanded an explanation of how the Attorney General’s office “failed” to represent McGeachin, as well as an explanation of how his office plans to pay the Idaho Press Club legal bills and his fine of $ 750. Democrats also requested an unredacted copy of McGeachin’s agreement for external legal services and unredacted copies of invoices for legal invoices or any correspondence with his private attorney that would include cost estimates.
“The undersigned may not be able to take affirmative action on your supplementary budget request until we have received this requested information,” the letter signed by Sens. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, Mark Nye, D-Pocatello and Boise- said based reps Brooke Green and Colin Nash.
“Please send this information to the LSO budget staff as soon as possible, so as not to delay the request for supplementary budget,” the letter concludes.
Separately from the letter, Horman said lawmakers and other friends had requested and were interested in McGeachin’s request for additional funding, but Horman said she had not received more information than had been given. been reported publicly. Horman said state officials hope to have more information by Tuesday’s meeting.
What else is the joint committee doing this week?
Wednesday will be another full day for JFAC. Members will meet at 8:30 a.m. and continue a discussion on the 2023 state budget requests.
The committee will also receive an update on Gov. Brad Little’s initiatives in 2021 and 2022 and discuss federal funding for COVID-19 testing in schools.
From there, JFAC members are to leave the Statehouse and travel to the College of Western Idaho campus, where they will meet and have lunch with the presidents of the community colleges in Idaho.
JFAC members will close off the offseason meetings on Thursday with an overview of a proposal to change government employee compensation in 2023, an update on school transportation costs, and a discussion of funds. unrecognizable, such as funding that did not come from the state and would not have been known or available during the budgeting process of the Legislative Assembly.
“These interim meetings are really important for giving us a holistic view of the budget situation we are facing this session while looking at, at a granular level, some of the details,” Horman said. “These are some of my favorite meetings because of it.”
The JFAC has traditionally been one of the largest, most powerful and active committees in the Legislature. The committee is responsible for drafting the state budget, which this year provides for $ 4.2 billion in general spending. The committee has 20 members – 10 each from the House and Senate, with a total of 16 Republicans and four Democrats. The committee meets every morning during legislative sessions, while most other committees outside of education committees only meet two or three times a week.
Despite its influence, the JFAC does not have the power to enact budget laws itself. It requires the entire legislature, just like other laws do.
Tuesday’s meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the Lincoln Auditorium, Room WW02 on the Garden Level of the Idaho Capitol. Each of this week’s JFAC meetings will be broadcast live online, free of charge, using the Idaho In Session service on Idaho Public Television.