The independent citizens commission established by Amendment 94 to set pay of elected officials heard today from prosecutors seeking a 22 percent pay raise.
Prosecuting attorneys had been left out of the elected positions covered by the amendment approved by voters last November. The legislature added them in the recent legislative session.
Today, the appointed commission heard prosecutors’ request, presented by Pulaski Prosecutor Larry Jegley, president of state prosecutors’ association for a pay pegged at 95 percent of circuit judges’ salaries. Circuit judges recently got a pay raise from the commission from $140,372 to $160,000. Most of the state’s prosecutors make $124,394. A raise to 95 percent of $160,000 would put them at $152,000, or a pay raise of more than 22 percent. Twenty-five prosecutors are in this group. Three more prosecutors, who are still allowed to practice law, make 85 percent of the pay of the others — $104,089. But the legislature is studying whether to move those three into the top category.
The report details the evolution of pay of judges and prosecutors over time and compares salaries with those in other states (in many of which judicial and prosecutor pay is equal or nearly so). The chart shows prosecutors duties, from legal to supervision of staffs, and notes, too, that in addition to pay differential, judges enjoy much richer retiremennt benefits — a maximum of 80 percent of pay compared with about 50 percent for prosecutors. (The cost in additional state retirement contributions has been a little-noted cost factor of ALL the salary increases the commission has approved, ranging up to 150 percent for state legislators.)
The commission also received research from the Bureau of Legislative Research. It shows a raise like the one requested would put Arkansas generally well ahead of states the commission has used as benchmarks for other offices — Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
Under procedure established by the amendment, the commission will eventually make a recommendation. They didn’t today. They’ll meet again April 30. The recommendation will be put out for public comment. The commission then will take a final vote. Any pay raise takes effect within 10 days of the vote being reported to the state auditor, who cuts the checks along with other public official pay off the top of state revenue.