Open line: Plus, Arkansas Supreme Court spending note | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Open line: Plus, Arkansas Supreme Court spending note

Posted By on Sun, Jul 26, 2015 at 3:49 PM

Here's the Sunday open line. Also:

* THE BIG SPENDING ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today reported on a subject i reported a week ago — extraordinary pay raises for Arkansas Supreme Court law clerks (up to more than 36 percent in one case) against 1 percent pay increases for Arkansas Court of Appeals law clerks, despite a statute mandating salary equity.

The Supreme Court wouldn't talk with me or the D-G about the raises. The D-G also said no one could explain where the  money was coming from

A reminder: I have a copy of a memo written by Associate Justice Karen Baker, who orchestrated this big money run with Justices Courtney Goodson, Rhonda Wood, Jo Hart and Robin Wynne. It says quite clearly  that some of the money — $16,000 for each justice to spend as they chose — comes from the $65,000 pay freed by the firing of the Supreme Court's communications counsel, Stephanie Harris (though Baker anticipates a day when they might fill that office again.) The memo also anticipates retirements of higher paid employees and other departures to free money and remove the court's concern about not leaving a cushion in appropriated funds. In short, Baker thinks the existing appropriation is sufficient to cover the raises, though she expresses hope for a "modest" additional appropriation from the legislature.

The D-G's Michael Wickline raised the question on Twitter today of whether the legislature would inquire about the pay raises, particularly in light of the 1 percent COLA's other state employees enjoyed. Of course legislators got a whopping pay increase themselves this year thanks to the so-called ethics amendment's provision, so firing shots from their glass house might be a little dangerous.

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