Panel removes raises for judges, prosecutors from expense bill


LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel removed a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for judges and prosecutors from an appropriation bill before recommending it Wednesday.

The pay hike had been recommended by the governor’s office and the interim Joint Budget Committee in December.

During a meeting of the Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday, Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, asked that the pay increase be removed, saying that doing so would make it easier later in the session for lawmakers to consider cost-of-living increases for all state employees.

Sen. Larry Teague, R-Nashville, co-chairman of the committee, urged support of Key’s request.

“This is early in the game and nobody wants to deal with this today,” he said.

House Bill 1024, the General Appropriation Bill, could be considered in the House as early as Thursday.

The $39.1 million measure routinely is the first legislation passed during a legislative session. The legislation sets the funding level for constitutional officers, judges, prosecutors and legislators.

Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, told lawmakers before the vote that constitutional officers, judges, prosecutors and legislators have not had a pay increase since 2010.

“My sense is that members want to have a broad discussion on many different topics and I think the COLA is one,” said Duncan Baird, R-Lowell, co-chairman of the committee. “If you start passing out things with COLAs I think individuals may feel like it takes away from that broader discussion.”

The measure now heads to the House.