More dough for the legislators' pockets? Decision next month. Just say no. | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

More dough for the legislators' pockets? Decision next month. Just say no.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 10:14 AM

The Independent Citizens Commission that sets pay for elected state officials has announced it will meet at 9 a.m. May 15 at Room 151 at the Capitol.

The Commission was part of a legislative boodling scheme master-minded by the now-imprisoned former Sen. Jon Woods. In addition to getting longer terms and enacting loopholes for lax ethics, he came up with the plan approved by voters to remove the political hot potato of pay raises from the hands of the legislature.

It has worked like a charm. A commission controlled by legislative appointments has dramatically increased legislative and other pay,

The legislature just got through increasing the state school budget for the coming year by a whopping 1 percent. Overall, the budget will go up a bit more than 2 percent, a lot of it for Medicaid expenses. Does that mean another 3 percent pay increase for legislators? You'd hope not.

They already get paid $41,934 for part-time jobs, not including the untaxed and profit-making per diem that puts most of them over $60,000 a year. Plus free lobby-paid lunches and dinners and cocktails, cut-rate housing for many, retirement benefits, cut-rate health insurance and the ability to turn service into a state or "consultant" job in the future. Not a few of them have also parlayed the job into cash payments as Jon Woods did.

Here's where last year's pay raises put the statewide officials, judges and legislators in pay in the state's 48th-lowest paying state.

Since we heard this so regularly during the push to give millionaires a huge income tax cut, take a look at this Ballotpedia comparison of legislative pay (it's at least a little out of date). Legislative pay is lower than Arkansas — far lower in several cases — in the surrounding states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Missouri.

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