I mentioned last night that the legislation for district judge pay raises including a provision to raise the maximum pay for the three Little Rock municipal court judges to $175,000 a year (which compares with $139,821 for Supreme Court justices.) It was explained to me that this means “only” a $5,500 pay raise for the three judges, who now make $138,321 but who will now qualify for the full 4 percent pay raises given city employees. Without this bill, their pay is capped at $140,000.
I got a note about the item from City Manager Bruce Moore. I’ve asked for more explanation. He says this was not the city’s bill. They are city judges, paid by the city, but a bill that provides a pay raise out of city money is not the city’s bill?
I understand that the district judge pay bill — an omnibus bill for courts all over the state — has historically been larded with favors extended by legislators to local pals, particularly by lawyer-legislators. But a city struggling for money and begging a tax increase during a year when no state employee, from grass mower up, is getting a pay raise might give a little thought to appearances. The city marshaled a battalion of expensive lobbyists to protect (unsuccessfully) an exorbitant excise charge on a private parking lot operator at Little Rock National Airport. Maybe they could have read the other bills pertaining to Little Rock for other surprises.
UPDATE: A legislative observer also wonders where the city was when a couple of Little Rock legislators this morning beat a proposal to put non-uniformed city workers in the state Public Employees Retirement System. They are the only government workers in the county not covered and get a pittance toward retirement for their low-pay jobs — 4 percent versus local contributions of 16.5 percent to firefighters, 13.2 percent to police and 23.3 percent for city judges. Who are these people who got short shrift? They are those who risk (and in one recent case, lost) their lives putting out salt on icy streets and other hard labor. I’ve asked Rep. Allen Kerr and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson why they decided
to oppose this proposal. CORRECTION: They deprived the measure of two critical votes by absences in Joint Retirement today, after having indicated support. Hutchinson said he was not absent to thwart the bill and still supports it. He urged backers to try to expunge the vote and try again. Kerr indeed decided not to support it. His response: