The state of Idaho is only a week into its new budget year, and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office has announced 11 days in the next year when it will shut its doors to meet spending reductions. The office closures should cover all the unpaid furlough days for employees in the attorney general’s office, unless holdbacks come in the next 12 months.
“He had an appropriation for the office and it is going to live within that appropriation,” said Bob Cooper, Wasden’s spokesman. “This seemed to be the most efficient way to do that."
The attorney general’s $17.5 million budget for this year is $1.57 million less than its original appropriation in last year’s budget. Much of that reduction came out in a holdback last year, which led to office closures.
Wasden’s office is also meeting reductions by leaving more than more than 20 jobs vacant. One area of spending that can’t be cut is Wasden’s $103,000 salary, which is set by lawmakers.
The decreased budget and staff hours coincide with an increased legal workload for the state. Wasden told lawmakers earlier this year that his office is stretched incredibly thin, in part because people are more likely to sue the state or appeal a court decision during an economic recession because they may have nothing left to lose.
“Everybody has to work more,” Cooper said. “You have fewer people, fewer person-hours for the remaining people, and more work to do. You just do the best you can.”
The Idaho Tax Commission already announced several field office closures on Fridays between July and the end of December to meet its budget.
Several of the attorney general’s office closures will be on the Friday before paid state holidays, including Memorial Day, Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “It just made sense to the office to schedule it that way,” Cooper said.