- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The number of Arkansas state employees whose salaries are at least $100,000 a year increased by 137 to 2,722 this year.

Most of the growth occurred at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, a teaching hospital based in Little Rock where the number of state employees making at least $100,000 increased by 74 to 1,254, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/1qlIjvK ).

The ranks at other higher-education institutions increased by 43, to a total of 1,083. Higher-education institutions include two-year and four-year universities.

Among employees who work at state agencies other than higher-education institutions, 385 earn six-figure salaries. That’s an increase of 20.

Funding for state government’s 2,722 highest-earning employees comes from a variety of state, federal and private sources, including tuition, hospital billings and taxes.

The highest-paid state employee is Bret Bielema, who makes $4.1 million a year as the head football coach at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. His boss, Athletic Director Jeff Long, makes $1 million a year. UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz is paid $450,000.

“Each position has to be evaluated separately based upon skill level, private-sector salaries and demand,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson, when asked about the growth in the number of employees making six-figure salaries.

The newspaper’s survey excludes elected officials. Hutchinson is paid $141,000 a year as the governor.

“If these positions are in the medical field, then the salary level may be justified. If the positions are not medical, then they should be comparable to the pay range for other state employees,” the Republican governor said in a written statement.

The governor doesn’t have direct control of the state’s higher-education institutions, but he appoints trustees to the universities’ governing boards when terms expire or trustees depart before their terms end.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, said lawmakers tend “to look at (UAMS) differently” from any other state agency.

“We want to have talent at UAMS, and that requires an investment on the state side,” he said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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