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Politics & Government

State officials project budget crunch for Lt. Gov. McGeachin

Janice McGeachin for governor
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise as she announces her bid for governor in 2022.

Idaho’s Department of Fiscal Management says Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin needs to make immediate budget cutbacks to avoid an impending shortfall.

An email from DFM’s second-in-command, David Fulkerson, projects a $15,373 deficit – even if McGeachin purchases nothing else through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Laying off her two staffers at the end of March wouldn’t close the gap, either. She’d still have to cut about $6,000.

“Again, I would like to stress the urgency of making immediate cutbacks in an effort to bring the FY 2022 budget back into compliance with the appropriation by the end of the fiscal year,” Fulkerson wrote Wednesday.

Jordan Watters, her chief of staff, didn’t respond to a request for comment by Thursday evening.

McGeachin’s money troubles began when she hired a private attorney to fight a lawsuit brought by the Idaho Press Club last year.

Reporters from multiple news outlets requested copies of comments sent to the lieutenant governor’s office related to her education indoctrination task force. Watters told reporters it would cost hundreds of dollars to redact the names of those who submitted comments.

As Boise State Public Radio previously reported, Judge Steven Hippler found McGeachin’s arguments that the comments were privileged communication to be “frivolous” and that her office acted “in bad faith” in responding to the records request.

Sections of state and federal law her office cited as reasons to exempt disclosure of the records include those regarding trade secrets, executive privilege, fish and game license and investigations conducted by the Idaho Human Rights Commission.

The exemptions Watters gave “were so irrelevant,” Hippler wrote, that it appeared he “may have blindly selected them at random.”

McGeachin initially estimated her private legal costs to be $50,000 but reduced that amount earlier this year to $29,000.

Prior to hiring her own attorney, the Idaho Attorney General’s office advised her to release the records in full, aside from substituting initials for a minor’s full name.

Last week, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee adjourned without addressing McGeachin’s supplemental request. The committee could reconvene before lawmakers leave Boise for the year later this month, but they’re not required to.

The Society of Professional Journalists gave McGeachin its annual Black Hole award Thursday for her refusal to hand over those records without a court fight.

“The Black Hole Award is bestowed annually upon government institutions or agencies for acts of outright contempt of the public’s right to know,” according to SPJ.

When asked by Idaho Education News about the award Thursday, McGeachin accused the media of wasting public money by bringing the lawsuit.

“It’s the press that actually cost taxpayer dollars,” she told Idaho Education News. “They could have simply agreed to pay the fee, which is also prescribed in the law.”

Idaho’s public records law presumes all records to be open for examination with a few exceptions – none of which Judge Hippler said applied in her case.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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