- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas commission quickly approved raising full-time prosecutors’ salaries by 23 percent on Wednesday, a move that’s drawn a relatively muted response compared to the public backlash over pay increases granted other elected officials earlier this year.

The Independent Citizens Commission unanimously approved the pay raises after no one showed up to speak at a public hearing for or against the proposal. The panel is raising pay for state’s 25 full-time prosecutors from $123,162 a year to $152,000. The commission also voted to raise salaries for three prosecutors who are allowed to also work in private practice from $103,058 year to $129,200.

The pay raises are set to take effect in 10 days.

The state’s prosecutors have argued that the pay increases were needed to encourage the state’s top attorneys to run for the posts. Larry Jegley, president of the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association, noted that many of the state’s prosecutors have left office to run for judgeships that pay much higher salaries.

“There’s not a significant enough difference in the salary levels now to make a judgeship as attractive as it was just a few months ago,” said Jegley, the prosecuting attorney for Pulaski and Perry counties.

The seven-member panel was created through a voter-approved constitutional amendment to review and adjust salaries for the state’s top elected officials.

In March, it voted to more than double legislators’ salaries and granted substantial pay raises to constitutional officers and judges. The salaries for the posts had previously been set by the state Constitution, which allowed the Legislature to make annual cost-of-living adjustments. The legislative pay raises were contingent on lawmakers ending the up to $14,400 in office reimbursements they had previously received, a practice that a new state law has ended.

Unlike the pay raises for other elected officials, which drew dozens of emails criticizing the move, the prosecutor pay hikes have drawn relatively few complaints to the commission.

The panel’s chairman said he didn’t expect the panel to meet again until the fall at the earliest.

“I think it’s a relative start, since Arkansas was behind and at least we have a platform now that we can move from that is equitable throughout the region as well as the United States” Chairman Larry Ross told reporters after the vote.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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