Administration budget slashed — without Otter’s blessing

The Legislature’s plan to dismantle funding for the embattled Department of Administration is in place — but Gov. Butch Otter isn’t necessarily on board.

Otter allowed the downsized budget to become law without his signature. It went to effect early Thursday morning.

The budget means the Administration Department will have no jurisdiction over high school broadband in 2015-16. After a district judge voided the Idaho Education Network contract engineered by the Department of Administration, the Legislature shifted responsibility for the broadband to the State Department of Education. On the Education Department’s watch, districts have been able to save more than $1 million on short-term broadband contracts through the end of the school year.

But with the transition, Administration’s budget will drop from $28.5 million to $19.6 million in 2015-16, a 31.2 percent decrease. The department will also have to eliminate five full-time positions that had been dedicated to the defunct Idaho Education Network project.

In a terse “transmission letter” to Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Otter offers no explanation for his decision.

But while the Legislature cut funding for the Administration Department, its former director remains on the payroll.

Teresa Luna is staying on as a “program specialist” for the department, at her old salary of $95,202. Luna is staying on while the department makes the transition to a new director, spokeswoman Jennifer Pike told Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, who first reported on Luna’s reassignment Monday.

Luna announced her resignation in March; at the time, Otter said she would be stepping down as director at the end of the 2015 legislative session.

Luna was at the center of the broadband fiasco, infuriating lawmakers by keeping them in the dark when a federal agency pulled the plug on network funding, and renewing the project contract without informing lawmakers.

 

 

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