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Lt. Gov. McGeachin tells state to withhold her salary to avoid deficit, but questions remain

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin
Otto Kitsinger
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Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin presides over the Idaho Senate at the Idaho Capitol on Jan. 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

McGeachin called Idaho Division of Financial Management inquiry into her projected budget shortfall ‘a rather pointless formality’

The day after she missed a state deadline to submit a plan to avoid a budget shortfall for her office, Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin responded to state budget officials Thursday morning by telling them they can withhold her salary to avoid a deficit.

In an email to Idaho Division of Financial Management administrator Alex Adams on Thursday, McGeachin called Adams’ request for her plan to avoid a budget shortfall “a rather pointless formality” after suggesting that the state withhold her salary at the end of the year to avoid a deficit.

But withholding McGeachin’s salary alone may not be enough to avoid a shortfall and there are still unanswered questions about her plan to avoid a budget deficit, state records obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun show.

Since at least March 11, state officials have been warning McGeachin in writing that her office faces a projected budget shortfall at the end of the 2022 fiscal year that ends June 30 if she does not cut expenses.

McGeachin is running for governor in the May 17 Republican primary election, challenging incumbent Gov. Brad Little and a field of six other GOP hopefuls.

On April 7, Adams sent McGeachin an email asking her to provide a written plan to avoid a budget deficit in her office. Adams estimated that paying McGeachin’s salary and health insurance benefits through the end of the fiscal year would result in a $2,283 deficit, a figure that has evolved as McGeachin has lost staff.

The Idaho Constitution has a balanced budget requirement, and Idaho law prohibits state agencies or officials from spending more than the amount of money that is provided by the Idaho Legislature through the appropriations process.

State law also requires McGeachin to respond to Adams, the administrator of the Division of Financial Management. She did not respond to Adams with plans to avoid a budget shortfall by Wednesday’s deadline, the Sun previously reported.

McGeachin did send a response Thursday morning just before 11:45 a.m, according to records obtained by the Sun.

McGeachin’s complete response is below:

Dear Mr. Adams,

I have always been transparent with the finances of my office, as you well know, Alex.

If there is a shortfall in the final month of the fiscal year, that amount may be withheld from my final paycheck as needed to balance my accounts. Of course, DFM already has access to all of my office’s accounting and expenditure records, making this exercise a rather pointless formality.

Sincerely,

Janice McGeachin

Adams wrote back to McGeachin later Thursday, public records obtained by the Sun show. Adams wrote that the Division of Financial Management still needs McGeachin to make several budget decisions, including whether to pause all vendor payments through July 1 when the 2023 budget kicks in or pay them now, and whether she wants to pay her employer and employee share of the premiums herself, apply for a waiver to transfer the cost for premiums to the 2023 budget year or lose coverage.

If McGeachin doesn’t resolve this matter with the Office of Group Insurance, Adams told McGeachin there would likely be a gap in her health insurance coverage.

“I can’t stress enough the urgency of you finalizing these decision points,” Adams wrote. “Please let us know your direction by Monday.”

Reached Thursday for comment, Adams referred the Sun to his email response to McGeachin where he requested additional decisions from McGeachin on making vendor payments and handling her health insurance benefits.

Chief Deputy State Controller Joshua Whitworth has previously warned McGeachin that state law and the Idaho State Controller’s Office’s constitutional duties prohibit them from spending money beyond the budget that was set by the Legislature for McGeachin’s office, the Sun previously reported.

McGeachin’s budget shortfall is coming after a district judge in 2021 ordered McGeachin to pay the Idaho Press Club nearly $29,000 in court costs and fees after McGeachin lost a lawsuit over public records. In 2021, McGeachin declined to release records related to her education task force, and the Idaho Press Club filed suit to secure the release of the records and won.

Last year, McGeachin said she couldn’t 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 acted on McGeachin’s supplemental funding request.

McGeachin has not returned numerous telephone and email messages the Sun has left since April 4.

The winner of the May 17 primary election advances to the Nov. 8 general election.