Big pay raises for the elected class

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 46 views 

The Independent Citizens Commission has set the proposed pay increases for state legislators, judges and constitutional officers. Everyone needs to take a big deep breath and read on.

The pay increases are indeed large and far reaching, but you Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, have a role to play in this ongoing process. The review of this proposal is now up to a review by the citizens of the state of Arkansas. In other words, limber up your fingers, crack those knuckles, and dust off that computer key board. The Independent Citizens Commission wants to hear from you.

Last week the Independent Citizens Commission's meeting ended nearly two months of study, discussion and testimony to determine salary increases for lawmakers by backing higher pay, including a recommended 148% increase for all 135 legislators.

Wow!

And by a unanimous vote, the commission’s "proposed salary adjustments" would bump all the 135 legislators' pay from $15,869 to $39,400 and give the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate raises from $17,771 to $45,000, respectively.

The Commission will recommend that legislators no longer receive expense reimbursements, which are capped at $14,400 per year. The leaders of the House and Senate have said they will support that recommendation. House and Senate Committee chairs will still be able to collect an additional reimbursement of $3,600 per year.

The commission is recommending no change to legislators’ per diem payments, which are $150 per day for lawmakers who live more than 50 miles from the Capitol and $61 per day for lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the Capitol. It also is recommending no change to legislators’ mileage reimbursements, which correspond to the reimbursements of federal employees, now at 57.5 cents per mile.

Following are the salaries proposed for constitutional officers.
• Governor – from $87,759 to  $141,000.
• Lt. Governor – remains flat at $42,315 (This is the only Constitutional Officer considered a part-time position.)
• Attorney General –  from $73,132 to $130,000.
• Secretary of State – from $54,848 to $90,000.
• Treasurer – from $54,848 to $85,000.
• Auditor – from $54,848 to $85,000.
• Land Commissioner – from $54,848 to $85,000.

In the state’s judiciary the Commission proposed increases by office.
• Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court – from $161,601 to $180,000
• Supreme Court justices (6) – from $149,589 to $166,500
• Appeals court chief judge (1) – from $147,286 to $164,000
• Court of Appeals judges (12) – from $144,982 to $161,500
• Circuit judges (78) – from $140,372 to $160,000
• Arkansas district judges (37 appointed and 80 local elected) – from $125,495 to $140,000

Again, stop and take a big deep breath, especially those of you voters who demanded in the mid-term elections that local politicians “hold firm on tax increases and don’t grow state government.” As a true scapegoat, the elected politicians will have little to do with increasing their own pay. You, the voters, did that for them.

The mid-term voters did that for the Legislature in approving Constitutional Amendment 94. That amendment increased current term limits and set up the Independent Citizens Commission to recommend pay rates for the 135 members of the state Legislature, more than 215 judicial officers and the state’s seven Constitutional offices.

Although the public will have a chance to comment, the commission has the final say. But before the commission settles salaries for elected officials on March 13, the group must oversee a 30-day public comment period for residents to weigh in, as well as a public meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. March 2 at the University of Arkansas Administration complex in Cammack Village (near Little Rock). This will be the ONLY public meeting set by the Independent Citizens Commission.

Written comments may be emailed to [email protected] or they can be mailed to the following address:
Independent Citizens Commission
c/o Office of the Auditor of State,
Arkansas State Capitol,
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

It is YOUR chance to comment on these proposed raises.