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Arkansas governor pitches pay plan revamp, 3% raises for state employees

The Arkansas State Capitol.
Dwain Hebda
Arkansas Advocate
The Arkansas State Capitol.

From the Arkansas Advocate:

Arkansas executive branch employees would receive a 3% pay raise, and the minimum wage for those workers would be raised to $15 an hour under a plan announced Wednesday.

The more than 22,500 state employees affected received a letter from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders detailing some of the steps to increase their pay this year before an overhaul of the state’s pay plan can be proposed during the 2025 legislative session.

Sanders’ temporary plan will be subject to legislative approval during the General Assembly’s fiscal session that begins April 10.

“This past year has been full of bold changes to Arkansas state government,” Sanders wrote. “That is thanks to you, our Arkansas state employees. We have the best public servants in the country, and I am excited to announce a pay plan that rewards you for your hard work.”

The Arkansas Department of Transformation and Shared Services expects the temporary proposal to cost $42.4 million over the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Roughly $19.3 million of that will come from the state’s general revenues; the rest will be absorbed in state agencies’ existing budgets.

The increases will go to executive branch employees, excluding those at independent agencies, like the Department of Transportation and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, as well as workers at state colleges and universities.

State employees, Sanders and lawmakers alike have been frustrated with Arkansas’ personnel and merit-raise system since last year when Sanders approved pay bumps for only about a quarter of the state’s highest-rated workers.

The pay plan was last overhauled in 2017.

A rework of the pay plan is one of the first priorities forthe contractor the state hired last month to help the executive branch identify ways to make state government more efficient.

The components of the temporary plan are:

  • Up to 3% one-time market adjustment increases for all state employees.
  • Raising the minimum wage for executive branch workers to $15 an hour by eliminating the first four steps in the state’s pay schedule. Employees will now start at “GS05,” which pays between $32,405 and $46,987, depending on qualifications and experience.
  • Increasing the maximum salary range for all steps in the pay scale by 10% “to reward our best for their hard work and commitment,” according to the Republican governor.
  • Modifying special rates of pay for exceptionally qualified applicants from 30% to 40%.
  • Adding special compensation awards.
  • Modifying hazardous duty pay to allow correctional workers to receive greater pay for temporary assignments to maximum security units or facilities, which have struggled to recruit and retain guards.

Raising the state’s pay floor by July will impact 1,988 employees who are currently working below the GS05 level, according to Transformation and Shared Services Chief of Staff Alex Johnston.
“State government is only as efficient and effective as the people who staff it,” Sanders said. “I believe this plan strikes the balance between spending Arkansans’ tax dollars wisely, increasing competitiveness, and rewarding our best state employees. I look forward to the legislature’s speedy review and approval of these proposals.”

Deputy Editor of Arkansas Advocate, which is part of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit news organization, supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Advocate retains full editorial independence.