As election nears, McGeachin shortfall saga takes a new turn

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin dismissed reports of an office budget deficit — while a state administrator warned that it might be difficult for McGeachin to balance her books.

McGeachin’s $2,000 shortfall — in a $183,000 office budget, one of the smallest in state government — has been an ongoing story. The state’s budget year ends on June 30, and according to the Idaho Constitution, no state agency can end the budget year in the red. And before that, McGeachin will seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the May 17 primary.

The shortfall saga unfolded on two fronts Monday.

First, McGeachin issued a news release labeling reports of the shortfall as “misinformation.” She again blamed the budget problems on the news media — which successfully sued McGeachin for refusing to release comments to her education task force. Under a court order, McGeachin’s office reimbursed nearly $29,000 in legal fees to the Idaho Press Club.

“The media continues to manufacture controversy where none exists. The lieutenant governor’s office budget is balanced,” the McGeachin news release said, in part. “Our office has made the necessary cuts and adjustments to cover those (legal) costs, and Idaho taxpayers will not need to provide any additional funding for this office.”

Part of the plan for balancing the books involves McGeachin forgoing a paycheck through the end of the budget year.

But Alex Adams, the head of Gov. Brad Little’s Division of Financial Management administrator, warned McGeachin of a possible problem, Clark Corbin and Audrey Dutton of the Idaho Capital Sun reported Monday. State law sets salaries for elected officials, and the state Constitution limits the ability to cut these salaries in the middle of the budget year.

“There’s an ongoing review of the ability to close the deficit based on these laws and the process to do so,” Adams told McGeachin in an email, obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun.

In his email, Adams told McGeachin she has $8,909.94 left in her budget for the budget year. McGeachin’s payroll costs would total $10,977.77, creating a $2,067.83 deficit, the Idaho Capital Sun reported.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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