By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports
The Secretary of State and the Governor’s budget recommendation to the legislature forgot about the Idaho presidential primary.
“It just slipped through the cracks because it wasn’t really on our radar,” said Secretary of State Lawerence Denney. “We didn’t even think about it.”
The Idaho presidential primary cost taxpayers $1.9 million in 2016. The budget recommendations from the Secretary of State and the Governor had zero dollars allocated to the election.
Early in the legislative session, Rep. Paul Amador discovered there was no money for the primary. “I was talking to the analyst,” said Amador. “Where are we going to get the money this year? Is it in the budget? And she looked and said ‘no, it’s not in there.’”
The members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) were caught off guard. “Budget writers usually don’t like surprises, especially when they increase the budget,” said Amador. “We always like surprises when they lower it.”
The legislative services analyst then informed the Secretary of State. “They called Tim [Hurst] and said you guys left out a big chunk of money,” said Denney. Hurst is the Chief Deputy Secretary of State.
“A lot of people have known about this and it hasn’t been a hush hush secret among JFAC members by any means,” said Amador. “We’re just finally getting to the Secretary of State’s budget today.”
JFAC is currently setting the 2020 budget, which is the year the presidential primary will take place. “The counties are not going to want to run the election unless there’s some money to pay them back,” said Denney.
That forced JFAC’s hand to find the money somewhere. “It’s just an extra two million dollars from the general fund appropriation,” said Amador. “So it’ll just come off the bottom line.”
In 2015 the legislature changed the way primaries work in Idaho. It moved the presidential primary to a set date in March and required the state to pay for it. The cost of the presidential primary was not included in the Secretary of State’s budget that year.
The presidential primary was funded in the bill that changed how the primary was administered, not in the Secretary of State’s budget.
“It wasn’t on our radar because last time around it was appropriated in the bill that created the presidential primary,” said Denney, “so it wasn’t in our regular schedule thing.”
This year, the Democratic Party has chosen to participate in the primary, but Denney doesn’t anticipate that changing the overall cost. “It will be the same. It may up the cost a little bit if there’s twenty five candidates and we have to print another page, but I think there’s enough to cover it and if it doesn’t it’ll come close.”
Today the primary was funded by JFAC and will go to the House and Senate for approval. “It wasn’t in the ‘you need to do this every four year line,’” said Denney. “But I can tell you it will be next time.”