Greenberg on Arkansas Legislative Pay Raises

When you vote on whether to raise your own salary, it’s always a tough vote. (Although for some people, I guess it would be the easiest vote in the world.) Last week, we passed HB 1061 out of the state House of Representatives, as 95 of 100 legislators voted to (among other things) raise their own pay 3.8 percent.

In fairness, the bill wasn’t completely self-interested. The case can be made that legislators deserve a cost-of-living raise as much as anyone else, and the bill provided for this kind of salary increase for legislative, judicial and executive branch employees (in addition, it gave prosecutors an 8 percent pay bump). Furthermore, the state constitution is typically understood to require that we pass a bill that pays for constitutional offices first before we enact any other appropriation measure.

What we could have done — and probably what we should have done — was to pass the appropriations bill without any salary increase. We could have put off the increase until later; there is some question as to whether we will be giving all state employees an upward salary adjustment for inflation this year, and it is embarrassing (to say the least) for legislators to benefit themselves without benefiting other state employees. Legislators passed a similarly lopsided raise four years ago, a decision not universally popular with other state employees.

I think the legislators who made the right decision were the ones who didn’t vote for the pay increase. These include (along with me) Reps. Duncan Baird, Ed Garner, Clark Hall and Keith Ingram, as well as Sens. Cecile Bledsoe, Steve Bryles, Paul Miller, Tracy Steele and Ruth Whitaker.

Gov. Mike Beebe also deserves credit: he announced late Friday that he wouldn’t accept a pay increase because of “tough economic conditions.” I think perhaps this is the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. I will look into the likelihood Monday that the legislature is going to repeat its bad decision of four years ago to give salary increases to some state employees and not others. If that’s repeated, I will – like the Governor – decline a pay increase.

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7 thoughts on “Greenberg on Arkansas Legislative Pay Raises

  • January 24, 2009 at 3:25 pm
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    Aren’t most of ya’ll legislative fatcats a buncha lawyers, retired business people, and big time farmers? Do you really need the extra scratch? Is it because you get to meet yearly now? Did Doe’s raise their prices?

    So be it. But I dare say that you should take a long, hard, throbbing look at State Employee salaries.

    https://www.ark.org/arstatejobs/index.php

    Those aren’t salaries, they’re insults.

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  • January 25, 2009 at 12:09 am
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    Perhaps we need an Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution like the 27th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Hopefully, it wouldn’t take 203 years to get it ratified.

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  • January 25, 2009 at 9:00 pm
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    “The case can be made that legislators deserve a cost-of-living raise as much as anyone else. . . .”

    Deserve? Come on, Greenberg. Pick a better word than that.

    What has the Arkansas Legislature done to cause any member to deserve anything?

    “Gov. Mike Beebe also deserves credit. . . .”

    If Beebe had vetoed the bill and said in his message that he won’t take a raise and that no legislator shoud get one, he then might have deserved credit. As it was, he merely helped the legislators pad their pockets while making a political gesture.

    By the way, taxpayers don’t get COLA increases. They get tax increases to pay the COLAs of the government payees. And I suppose that is exactly what they deserve.

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  • January 26, 2009 at 7:18 am
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    Actually, vetoing of the bill, no matter how well meaning the reasoning behind it, would have simply had the effect of shutting down the legislative session until the legislature reworked the bill to statisfy the Guv or until a compromise had been worked out. (actually, shutting down the session has its merits, I must admit.) However, from the standpoint of the Arkansas Constitution, it is agreed that no other appropriation bills may be passed by the legislature until this bill is passed and signed into law. That is why in every session, forever, the first appropriation bill signed into law is this bill, the one setting up salaries for the constitutional officers et al. Did they have to give themselves a raise? No, not really.

    Just wait until after the next election and the electorate decide that they don’t want to overturn their vote in the last election and decide to keep annual sessions. The legislature will say it is the will of the people for them to be a full time legislature and thus are deserving of full time pay.

    I hate to think Bobby Glover is that smart, so likely someone put him up to it. However, you can bet the legislature will approve his “legislature sponsored” constitutional amendment for the next election cycle. Then, you won’t find one of these “supposedly against” legislators out campaingning against the bill. They have a full time legislature now for the ones who live off the salaries and per diems and expenses and lobbyists largesse. Meeting in scheduled session for a few days extra every other year is just what they want and raising their pay because it is now a full time job is a thick layer of icing on the cake.

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  • January 26, 2009 at 12:46 pm
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    Disappointing Dan, seriously.

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  • January 26, 2009 at 5:31 pm
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    Well, they ought to be paid the market rate.

    You might set that as the salary it takes to attract someone qualified, which is probably $zero.

    Or you might set it as the salary comparable to what reps get in other states, or the equivalent job in the private sector, which is probably higher than what they’re getting now.

    Personally, I’ve never turned down a pay raise and I never will. Do you know how to tell if someone is worth $100K a year? They’ve found someone to pay them that.

    If I can make a dollar ethically, I’ll take that dollar.

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  • May 13, 2009 at 2:48 pm
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    If others must do without a raise then our LEADERS should LEAD and do without one – Team effort. Thanks

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