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BOISE -- Idaho taxpayers have paid private attorneys more than $30 million in the past three years to do the state's legal work, in part because the Idaho Attorney General's office doesn't have the staff to handle caseloads.

The Associated Press obtained the payment information from the State Controller's Office through a public records request. The private attorneys charge the state anywhere from $125 to well over $300 an hour, compared to the $54 per hour it costs to have a state staff attorney do the job.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has asked for more staffers or warned lawmakers of the liability caused by understaffing every year since 2005. But Idaho Gov. C.L. Butch Otter says he likes the flexibility of outside attorneys, because when they're not needed, they're not paid.

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