After winning final legislative approval Friday, the pay range is now set for the 15 secretary posts for the new Cabinet-level agencies in Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s state government reorganization plan.
The secretaries will be announced sometime this week, Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said late Friday.
Act 910 of 2019 establishes the new secretary positions to serve as the executive heads of the departments that will be created, effective July 1, the state’s personnel administrator, Kay Barnhill, said in a letter to the Legislative Council’s personnel subcommittee. The subcommittee endorsed the proposed salary range for these positions Tuesday, followed by the Legislative Council’s approval Friday with no debate.
The range will be from $167,096 to $201,700 a year. But some are expected to be paid outside that range.
“In making this decision, I am aware of the potentially significant salaries which could be authorized for these positions,” Hutchinson wrote in a letter dated May 3 to the subcommittee.
“However, the positions presented to you … also give myself and future governors maximum flexibility in recruiting and retaining top administrators for our state government. I have been advised by the Department of Finance and Administration that, in setting the actual salaries of individual secretaries, the governor can offer salaries outside of the state’s established range. This includes offering salaries which are below the stated minimum.”
Barnhill told lawmakers Tuesday that some Cabinet secretaries could be paid more than the salary range if they are agency heads making more than $201,700 a year in state pay. That would require additional legislative approval, she said.
Those department heads, according to the Arkansas Transparency website, include:
Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie, whose salary is $282,800.
Education Commissioner Johnny Key, whose salary is $235,823.
Department of Health Director Nate Smith, whose salary is $221,976.
In his letter, Hutchinson said he would exercise the flexibility to set pay levels “in the best interests of both the agencies of our government and the taxpayers of our state.
“Agencies will also surrender positions which would otherwise be filled, offsetting the cost of the secretarial positions and ensuring that government as a whole does not grow,” Hutchinson said.
“As always, I am guided by my commitment to reducing the size and cost of government as well as the expectations of the General Assembly and the people of our state,” the Republican governor wrote in his letter.
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 veterans affairs.
Hutchinson on Thursday told about 350 people attending an Arkansas Rural Development Conference luncheon in Hot Springs, “As I have gone through interviews to determine who the secretaries of those 15 departments should be, it is exciting to hear the ideas on transformation and the efficiencies that can be achieved.
“So I pledge to you that we are going to make sure that we continue the delivery of the services that you expect. We are going to make it more efficient, but it will be more manageable for me and, because of that, I think you’ll see savings as well as improved delivery of services from state government,” he said.
Hutchinson has estimated that the reorganization effort could save state government about $15 million a year beginning in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1, 2020.
The reorganization plan represents the most sweeping overhaul of state government since Democratic Gov. Dale Bumpers led an effort to reduce the number of Cabinet-level agencies from 60 to 13 under Act 38 of 1971.
Sign up for the Arkansas politics newsletter