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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.

Barnhill said three current department heads are paid salaries greater than $201,700:

Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie, who is paid $282,800.

Commissioner of Education Johnny Key, who is paid $235,823.

Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Arkansas Department of Health director, who is paid $221,976.

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.

The reorganization would be the most sweeping overhaul of state government since 1971 when then-Gov. Dale Bumpers, a Democrat, led an initiative to meld 60 agencies into 13 departments under Act 38 of that year.

Print Headline: Panel OKs Cabinet pay range

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