Attorney General Dustin McDaniel,
who'll leave office making about $73,000 a year, has written a letter to the independent citizens commission recommending pay increases for state officials that the office be paid "at least" $165,000 a year. He'd also provide for expenses for business meals, travel and transportation in keeping with that paid assistants.
An unlimited pay increase, even one like this of 129 percent, is possible under Amendment 94, which created the pay commission, but only this year. In future years, pay raises will be capped at 15 percent.
McDaniel's lengthy letter says the attorney general is paid $35,000 to $45,000 less than top attorneys in the office and is the managing director of a large law firm with 176 employees and a $24 million budget. The office makes less than elected prosecutors, who earn $123,000 a year. He noted the University of Arkansas general counsel makes $183,000 and the governor's chief legal counsel makes $134,514.
"It is simply not reasonable for General Rutledge's salary to remain so grossly incommensurate with these other state lawyers and her colleagues around the nation," said McDaniel
Here's McDaniel's full letter.
1. The last time voters expressed an opinion specifically on pay for this office was in 1993, when they approved a constitutional amendment raising the pay to $50,000. This amendment said pay could be raised annually, with legislative approval, by an amount not to exceed the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index. The legislature, for political and economic reasons (this is a poor state), has not given the raises possible under the CPI. Had it done so, the attorney general could now be making more than $82,000.
2). Candidates for offices knew the rate of pay. Rutledge's party opposed the constitutional amendment allowing the pay raise.
3) Arkansas ranks 48th in per capita income in the U.S.
4) State employees have been lucky to get 1 and 2 percent pay raises the last few years.
5) Information provided to the independent commission at its last meeting indeed showed Arkansas at the bottom of attorney general pay, with the closest being Colorado at $80,000 and Oregon at $82,000, according to a survey of the Council of State Government published in 2014.
BUT ,...... a move to $165,00 would make Arkansas, 48th poorest state in the country, home to the third-highest paid A.G. in the United States, behind, barely, only Alabama and Tennessee, on that list. Nine states on that list showed attorney general pay below $100,000.
In short: What has Dustin McDaniel
been smoking? And why is it that legislators and others at the top of this poor state have decided THEIR time is so much more valuable than the people they serve? They fight minimum wage increases, fight universal health insurance, fight workers compensation, fight unemployment benefits, fight food stamps, fight unions and fight just about every other program to lift the needy, from pre-K education to higher education support.
$165,000 plus the ability to declare all meals business expenses? The issue might not be that we pay the attorney general too little but that we pay some other state employees too much. Judges, for example, have long complained about their pay, but national surveys show them better paid than half the country. Again, not bad for the 48th poorest state.
If we pay the a.g. $165,000, must we not pay the governor $200,000, in keeping with the notion that he's CEO of a $6 billion corporation? I hope this commission has better sense than that, though I was given pause by a recent remark by one that we should make up for legislators' loss of lobbyist meals and drinks in Amendment 94. For one thing, they are still getting swilled every day of the legislative session by lobbyists, morning, noon and night.
SPECULATIVE UPDATE: Maybe McDaniel was being overly solicitous to leave some good feeling with successor Leslie Rutledge on retaining some of that $24 million staff. I'm haring the staff is getting the word tonight. As McDaniel noted, many are well-paid jobs. Some are undoubtedly to be replaced.