Opportunism and demagoguery: The politics of elected official pay | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Opportunism and demagoguery: The politics of elected official pay

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 7:07 AM

The Independent Citizens Commission meets today to set pay for elected state officials and seems likely to stick with its earlier recommendation for a 2 percent across-the-board increase for those covered by the commission's work under a relatively new constitutional amendment.

The commission gave no pay raise last year after a round of healthy increases for all but the lieutenant governor in its first year of existence. It proposes to match an economist's explanation of the current inflation rate and seems sympathetic to the notion that ignoring that for years creates the inevitable need for giant catchups.

Political types — a few of them anyway — want to capitalize on the moment. A couple of opportuniists, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Secretary of State Mark Martin, say they won't take the pay increases. Fine. Neither deserves it if you want to get serious about the discussion. The lieutenant governor's duties are non-existent except to preside over the Senate (if he or she chooses) and they are now even more proscribed, with a new constitutional amendment that removes the governor's loss of power outside the state's borders. Martin is often a no-show at the office and has screwed up a lot he's touched whilst gallivanting around the world. But I'm not arguing for a pay cut or against a pay raise for them or anyone else. The raises are for the office. An independent body wants to keep the statutory pay scale in step with the duties of the various offices — statewide, legislative and judges — and adjust it for inflation. It's worth noting that the working officials would again fall behind retired state officials, who enjoy a 3 percent annual COLA in their retirement systems.

In addition to efforts by Griffin and Martin to take advantage of the moment, a Republican candidate for land commissioner, Alex Ray, issued a news release today opposing any pay raises. This is the same old political opportunism that led to formation of the commission in the first place. He, Griffin and Martin and other political haymakers who might appear today should be ignored. Legally, I don't think anyone can refuse the pay in any case. They are free to take it and donate the extra — plus more — to whatever good cause they favor, tax deductible or not.

Griffin has been touting his political ploy on social media for days and finally got the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to demand a response from many of the covered state officials. Few would outright admit to being willing to accept a pay raise. They shouldn't be reticent. None requested a raise in commission hearings. The commission acted independently. What it recommends will be the law. Turning this into a game just takes us back to where we started.

The 11 percent pay raises sought by the Arkansas Supreme Court? Now THAT is worth talking about. The Commission seems ready to exercise sound judgment there, too, by rejecting it.

Here's the current pay of the covered officials and the new pay with the proposed raises:

Governor:         $141,000      $143,820
Lt. Gov.:            $42,315       $43,161
Atty. Gen.:        $130,000     $132,600
Secy. of State: $90,000      $91,800
Treasurer, auditor, land cmsnr.:  $85,000   $86,700
Legislators:      $39,4000   $40,188
House spkr./Senate pres.           $45,000   $45,900
Supreme Court chief justice:     $180,000  $183,600
Supreme Court justices:            $166,500     $169,830
Court of Appeals chief judge:   $164,000   $167,280
Court of Appeals judges:          $161,500     $164,730
Circuit judges  $160,000   $163,200
District judges  $140,000   $142,800
Pros. atty. Div. A   $152,000  $155,040
Pros. atty. Div. B    $129,200  $131,784

Griffin said in tight times the pay for his office shouldn't be raised. His argument would have been more persuasive if he'd said the office has little value and the pay should be cut substantially.

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