- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas panel on Tuesday approved a 2 percent raise for the state’s top elected officials but excluded the lieutenant governor after he said he didn’t want the bump in pay.

The Independent Citizens Commission voted 4-0 to raise the salaries of the state’s other constitutional officers, legislators, judges and prosecutors. It will take effect in 10 days.

The panel voted to keep Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin’s pay at $42,315 a year after the Republican told the panel he opposed the pay raise proposal and would decline the additional money if it was approved.

“We don’t need to force a raise on an office that the head seems to think is not necessary,” Chuck Banks, the panel’s vice chairman, said before the vote.

The commission was created under a constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2014. Previously, the officials’ salaries had been set by the constitution but lawmakers could make cost-of-living adjustments.

Secretary of State Mark Martin this week said he opposed the salary increase, but unlike Griffin, he didn’t send the panel a letter formally objecting to the raise. His office said Martin will refuse the additional money and instead donate it toward the purchase of new elections equipment.

Other elected officials had also objected to the raise. The top Democrat in the Senate asked the panel to postpone any raises, citing Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s decision to cut the state’s current budget by $70 million and the budget for the coming year by $43 million, as well as concerns it would expand the role of the Legislature.

“My concern is that legislators will evolve to full time politicians, something the drafters of our constitution never intended,” Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram said in a letter to the panel. Ingram said Tuesday he would likely donate his raise to charity.

Griffin said he was grateful for the panel’s decision.

“At a time when the state budget is tight and hardworking Arkansans need tax relief, a salary increase for me is neither a priority nor appropriate,” he wrote in a letter to the panel Monday.

At least one member of the panel expressed reservations about excluding Griffin from the raise, saying it would affect future officeholders.

“We’re acquiescing to a person rather than to the position,” Commissioner Barbara Graves said.

The raise is lower than an 11 percent raise Chief Justice Dan Kemp requested for himself and the other members of the state Supreme Court. Kemp had said the raise would put the court more in line with other states and cited the flurry of appeals justices handled in late April over Arkansas’ efforts to execute eight inmates over an 11-day period. The state put four men to death after half the executions were halted by state and federal courts.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ademillo

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