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Otter paying for policy advisers with other agency budgets

On paper, Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter cut his own office by 3.8 percent for 2011, while recommending that the average agency budget decrease 2 percent. But Otter is planning to account for some of his policy advisers the way that former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne did until 2006: stash them in other agency budgets.

Otter told BW this week that he plans to use at least two budget analysts from the Division of Financial Management as policy advisors, and DFM director Wayne Hammon told the legislative budget committee recently that he is serving as a policy adviser as well.

"It makes sense," Otter said.

Roger Brown, a senior financial management analyst on education and transportation, is already listed as a policy team leader for local government and Josh Tewalt, also a senior analyst and former staffer in Otter's congressional office and Idaho Cattle Association vice president, may soon be.

"Josh Tewalt would be well-qualified to do a lot of things," Otter said.

But not for more pay. These policy tasks, which the governor's budget analysts often perform anyway, would be added to the analysts' existing workloads.

"More with less," Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said.

In 2006, the Legislature shifted five full-time policy adviser positions from the DFM budget to the Governor's Office budget to more accurately reflect the work they were doing. When Otter was elected, he first said that agency heads would be his policy advisers, but he soon collected a policy staff of his own.

Since last year, two of his advisers have transferred to other agencies. John Chatburn was an assistant to Otter on energy, water and natural resource issues, but since October, has been a manager at the Office of Energy Resources, still dealing with energy. Chatburn, whose new position is funded by federal stimulus dollars, also coordinates with the Western Governors' Association on energy issues. And Clete Edmunson, a former Otter adviser for education and roads, now works at the Department of Labor, where he is "helping build public-private partnerships devoted to fulfilling the governor's goal of creating jobs that lead to careers," according to a September e-mail.

"John Chatburn still advises in terms of energy, along with [OER director] Paul Kjellander ... but only within their role over there," Otter said.

Otter has left those two positions vacant to help fund the current year holdback in his office. He also eliminated two paid internships, instituted 10 furlough days and dropped the state's $60,700 membership in the National Governors' Association.

Also, Otter would like to add one new position to his staff, a governor's liaison* who has been located in Washington, D.C., and now in Coeur d'Alene under the Department of Commerce budget.

*CLARIFICATION: The Governor’s Office is requesting that the liaison position be added to the governor’s budget; she is already a member of his staff, but currently paid with Department of Commerce funds.
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