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State of Idaho to hold McGeachin’s salary, then work to make her salary whole

Door to the Office of the Governor at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Door to the Office of the Governor at the Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Money for the balance of McGeachin’s salary would come out of the next year’s budget

Idaho state officials will withhold Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s salary at the end of the current fiscal year to avoid a budget shortfall, but will work to make her salary whole later in the calendar year, state documents obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun indicate.

McGeachin had agreed to allow her salary to be withheld. But Chief Deputy State Controller Joshua Whitworth appears to have made the final decision after questions were raisedabout the legality of reducing McGeachin’s salary in the middle of her term. Whitworth addressed the situation in a legal analysis from the State Controller’s Office that he sent to the Idaho Division of Financial Management on Friday, state records show.

At issue is a projected shortfall of $2,067 in the office budget for McGeachin, who is running for governor in next week’s Republican primary election. For more than six weeks,state officials have been warning McGeachin that she will run a budget deficit after she hired her own private attorney (instead of continuing to work with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office), lost a lawsuit the Idaho Press Club filed over access to public records and was ordered to pay the Idaho Press Club’s legal fees and costs of nearly $29,000. McGeachin asked the Idaho Legislature for additional state funding to cover her legal costs, but the Idaho Legislature declined to act on her supplemental funding request for additional taxpayer money.

The plan for McGeachin’s budget gets a little complicated because there are references to both a fiscal year and a calendar year in the plan. From a budget standpoint, the state of Idaho runs on a fiscal year from July 1 to June 30 every year. The 2022 fiscal year ends on June 30, and the State Controller’s Office will withhold some of McGeachin’s salary at the end of the 2022 fiscal year to avoid the shortfall.

But after the 2023 fiscal year kicks in on July 1, Whitworth wrote in his analysis that state laws prevent the State Controller’s Office from spending any money beyond what is appropriated by the Idaho Legislature through the budget. But a different section of state law specifically sets the lieutenant governor’s salary at 35% of the governor’s salary. That percentage puts McGeachin’s salary at about $48,405 for this year.

“Due to the constitutional officer pay being legally set on a calendar year vs a fiscal year, the total due to the Lt. Governor for her salary and benefits can be made up in the subsequent fiscal year if there is adequate personnel appropriation available,” Whitworth wrote. Whitworth added that it does appear there is enough room in the budget to do that.

The State Controller’s Office analysis also found that steps McGeachin took attempting to avoid a budget shortfall, which included pausing vendor payments and McGeachin no longer working with any paid staff, reduced the initial projected amount of the budget shortfall but were “inadequate to cover the Lt. Governor’s salary and benefits for the remainder of fiscal year 2022.”

The State Controller’s Office also specified McGeachin’s budget deficit was not due to underfunding by the Legislature.

“The insufficient personnel funds to pay her salary to the end of the fiscal year was not caused by the Legislature failing to appropriate sufficient sums of money to fulfill the requirements of the statute,” the analysis states. “It was caused by the Lt. Governor’s management decisions to hire additional staff and to transfer money from personnel funds in order to pay litigation costs.”

In a statement issued last week, McGeachin said her office budget is balanced and “the media continues to manufacture controversy where none exists.”

McGeachin has not returned numerous email and telephone messages left by the Sun since April 4. Nobody answered the phone in the lieutenant governor’s office when the Sun called shortly before 4 p.m. Monday.

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

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.