BOISE — Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin may forego her salary for the final months of the state’s fiscal year to make up for her office’s budget shortfall, according to new analysis from the Comptroller’s Office. State of Idaho, but she will have to be given back pay after the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, per constitutional requirements.
This means that the office of the lieutenant governor will start the next fiscal year, for which the budget has already been set, with a deficit. And it will be up to McGeachin, who will continue as lieutenant governor until the end of the calendar year, to take steps to avoid leaving a deficit for his successor in office when he takes office. in January.
“If we find that she is not expected to exceed her personnel budget after the first pay periods, we would at least be confident that there are enough personnel dollars in this fiscal year to make up the shortfall for the year. previous year and his salary,” said Chief Assistant Comptroller Josh Whitworth, who authored the two-page analysis.
Last week McGeachin, who did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, sent out a press release saying his “office budget is balanced” and decrying reports of his deficit as “misinformation.” However, this directly contradicted state budget documents, which showed an estimated deficit of $2,067.83. McGeachin, who is running for governor, has no office staff left, her office doors are locked, and she has offered to forgo her salary and benefits for the remainder of the fiscal year to fill shortfall.
The Idaho Constitution, in Article V, Section 27, prohibits changing the salary of statewide elected officials while in office; it is to avoid the interference of the legislative power in the executive power. That’s why the legislature sets the salaries of statewide elected officials every four years, before they begin their term.
“The new fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30,” said Alex Adams, state budget director and administrator of Idaho’s Financial Management Division. “You have a lieutenant governor who would serve in that position for half the year, and then the state is about to elect a new lieutenant governor who would serve from January through June. So by distributing the debt from one fiscal year to the next, it has an impact on the next lieutenant governor. They essentially inherit a deficit because it pushes payroll spending this year into next year.
The budget for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor for the next fiscal year has already been set by the Legislative Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. It’s $202,000, all in public funds.
This year, McGeachin exceeded her office budget by $183,100 when she redirected staff funds to pay for court-ordered attorney fees at the Idaho Press Club after losing a public records lawsuit for wrongfully denying public records requests from several Idaho journalists for thousands of public comments submitted to his task force investigating alleged left-wing indoctrination in Idaho schools. The court fined McGeachin $750 for ‘bad faith’ violations of Idaho’s public records law, ordered him to release the documents and ordered him to pay the Press’ attorney fees. Club, in the amount of $28,973.84. When the comments were published, they overwhelmingly opposed the task force and its claims.
McGeachin was notified on March 11 of an expected shortfall of more than $22,000, although she immediately halted all supplier payments for the remainder of the year. At the time, she had two staff members, including a chief of staff, Jordan Watters, and a part-time administrative assistant, Machele Hamilton; she has none now.
McGeachin initially asked the Legislature to approve a $50,000 increase in his budget this year for court costs, then cut the amount to match the court-ordered payment, but the joint budget committee of the The Legislative Assembly never acted on the request for the additional appropriation.
Whitworth’s analysis found that “the lieutenant governor or staff made management decisions that shifted appropriated funds from the staff vote to the operating vote. No additional appropriation for the 2022 financial year was obtained by the office. And, according to the analysis, “no immediate action was taken by the Lieutenant Governor or staff to adjust staffing plans, resulting in a projected overspending.”
State law and the Constitution prohibit overspending of the state budget.
The Lieutenant Governor’s salary is currently $48,406 per year.
Two Republicans are currently facing each other in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor on May 17, current House Speaker Scott Bedke and state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird. The winner will face Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler, a Boise lawyer who has no opposition in the Democratic primary; and the “Pro-Life” Constitutional Party candidate, known as Marvin Richardson before legally changing his name, in the November general election.
Betsy Z. Russell is Boise Bureau Chief and State Capital Reporter for Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.