By Brett Hooton
As the economy goes down, the salaries of our elected officials goes up. At a time when many Arkansans are losing their jobs or taking pay cuts, the Arkansas legislature just voted our elected officials a raise. The increase was 3.85%. For the Governor, this means any extra $3,238. In past years the increase was closer to 2%. I have not yet heard a valid reason for this raise. I'd much rather see struggling Arkansans get a tax break instead of our elected officials getting a raise in a year when our economy is in a recession.
(Tolbert Report's Additional Note) In fairness to Gov. Beebe, I called his spokeman Matt DeCample for a comment before running the story. DeCample tells me, “It's a constitutional adjustment, not something that we request. The Governor is continually grateful to the citizens of Arkansas for giving him this job, and vows to continue using the office to put more Arkansans to work and back to work whenever possible.”
(UPDATE from Hooton) While the raise was Constitutional, the concern I have is with the amount. As you can see below, the Constitution specifies a maximum allowed increase not a minimum. I would have preferred to have seen a more reasonable increase given the tough economic times Arkansans are going through. To clarify, the Governor did not request this increase nor did he have a vote. His salary was simply used as an example to demonstrate the increase in real dollars.
Amendment 70 Section 3 of the AR Constitution states "The salaries...may be increased annually...by an amount not to exceed the average percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers..., as published by the US Department of Labor for the two years immediately preceding the year of the alary appropriation."
Also, I noticed KTHV has a related story and Max Brantley weighs in as well.
UPDATE II – The governor may not have any say in the raises approved by the legislature but it was in the first group of bills that he signed this week.
From his office, the only bills signed in the first two weeks include:
Senate Bill 001 – Act 1 (Senators' Expense Funding)
House Bill 1001 – Act 2 (Representatives' Expense Funding)
House Concurrent Resolution 1 (Adopting this year’s Rules)
House & Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 (Giving the legislature a four day weekend for their first weekend on the job)
House Bill 1061 - Act 3 (Next year’s pay raises for Constitutional Officers).
So in summary, two weeks into the session and the only thing the legislature has gotten signed is approval for their own expenses, pay raises for the Constitutional Officers, and approval for a four day weekend.
UPDATE III - In response to the overwhelming pressure of the Tolbert Report (yeah right), the Governor’s office release the following statement:
"This afternoon, Governor Beebe informed the Department of Finance and Administration that he will not accept the pay raise approved for him as part of the government appropriations bill. As chief executive officer of the state, Beebe will forego any raise in pay while Arkansans continue to face the tough economic conditions of the national recession."
UPDATE IV – In a bizarre twist of the universe, the Arkansas Project declares that “Mike Beebe is one million times smarter” than the Republican legislators and Brummett’s Blog calls the governor’s move “lame.”
Also weighing in with Brummett is Attorney General Dustin McDaniel who gripes about being underpaid so he says he’s keeping his raise and Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter who says he intended to give his raise to charity but not tell anyone (which is totally like Halter, he never wants to make a big deal out of anything he does.)