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A legislative panel on Tuesday approved the salary range for the 15 Cabinet secretaries who will be appointed under Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to reorganize Arkansas' executive branch.

The Arkansas Legislative Council's Personnel Subcommittee on Tuesday OK'd a salary range of $167,096 to $201,700 for each of the secretaries that will helm the 15 new agencies. Some, however, are likely to be paid outside that range.

The salaries must be approved by the full council later this week, but the subcommittee's approval on Tuesday was one of the first steps toward implementing the governor's proposed reduction of state agencies reporting to him from 42 to 15.

The General Assembly approved Hutchinson's proposal earlier this year, enacting Act 910 of 2019.

Kay Barnhill, the state personnel administrator, told legislators that each new Cabinet-level agency is expected to absorb any increased costs associated with the proposed secretary salary ranges through payroll savings or the elimination of vacant positions.

In a letter to the subcommittee, Hutchinson noted that his appointed secretaries may in some cases be paid below the proposed salary range. Barnhill, in response to questions from lawmakers, also said that some secretaries could be paid more if they are current agency heads making more than $201,700 annually. That, she said, would require additional legislative approval.

"In making this decision, I am aware of the potentially significant salaries which could be authorized for these positions," Hutchinson wrote in the letter. "However, the positions presented to you today also give myself and future governors maximum flexibility in recruiting and retaining top administrators for our state government."

Act 910 establishes the following Cabinet-level departments: agriculture; commerce; corrections; education; energy and environment; finance and administration; health; human services; inspector general; labor and licensing; military; parks, heritage and tourism; public safety; transformation and shared services; and veteran affairs.

Hutchinson has estimated that the reorganization effort could save about $15 million a year beginning in fiscal 2021, which starts July 1, 2020.

Hutchinson created a transition team to help implement Act 910, and he said the team would help with "setting the stage" for the 15 Cabinet secretaries. A spokesman for Hutchinson said announcements for appointees should begin next week.

Metro on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: Panel gives early approval to salary range for Cabinet

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