LITTLE ROCK — The state Independent Citizens Commission gave final approval Monday to a slate of pay raises for elected state officials, despite objections from some members that comments received from the public were being ignored.

LITTLE ROCK — The state Independent Citizens Commission gave final approval Monday to a slate of pay raises for elected state officials, despite objections from some members that comments received from the public were being ignored.


The commission, created under a constitutional amendment that voters approved in November, voted 5-2 to approve the raises for legislators, constitutional officers and judges that it proposed in a report earlier this year, before a 30-day period for public comment.


Voting "no" were Chairman Larry Ross and member Stuart Hill, who argued that the commission should review the proposed raises line by line, taking into consideration comments from the public.


Members Chuck Banks and Mitch Berry argued that the constitutional amendment that created the commission did not allow anything but a single yes-or-no vote on the entire plan.


"Then what’s that purpose of public comment?" Hill asked. "What’s the purpose of that if there’s not the opportunity to bring that into discussion and then see if that does perhaps change your mind?"


"I see your point, but unfortunately that’s not how it’s written," Berry said.


Hill said that about 90 percent of the public comments submitted to the commission are against the commission’s plan — which, among other things, would more than double the annual salary of state legislators.


"How can I ignore that?" Hill said.


Banks argued that the high percentage of negative comments does not necessarily mean the public opposes the raises. He speculated that "the vast of majority of people that are not commenting are reasonably comfortable and satisfied with this."


Banks also said he had taken the public comments into consideration but remained in support of the commission’s plan.


"Criminal!" an audience member yelled.


Assistant Attorney General Amy Ford told the panel it is "not clear" whether the amendment gives it the flexibility to make adjustments to its plan. The commission voted to request an attorney general’s opinion but then rescinded the vote after members pointed out that a majority supported approving the existing plan.


The panel then voted to approve the raises, which will be effective 10 days after they are filed with the state auditor’s office. They include:


— Raising legislators’ annual salaries to $39,400 from the current $15,869. The House speaker and the Senate president pro tem will be paid $45,000 instead of the current $17,771.


— Raising salaries for the governor to $141,000, up from $87,759; attorney general, $130,000, up from $73,132; secretary of state, $90,000, up from $54,848; and treasurer, auditor and land commissioner, $85,000, up from $54,848. The lieutenant governor’s salary will remain at the current $42,315 because the position is considered part-time.


— Raising salaries for the Supreme Court chief justice to $180,000, up from $161,601; Supreme Court justices, $166,500, up from $149,589; Court of Appeals chief judge, $164,000, up from $147,286; Court of Appeals judges, $161,500, up from 144,982; circuit judges, $160,000, up from $140,372; and district judges, $140,000, up from $125,495.


The commission also recommended that the Legislature eliminate expense reimbursements, which currently are capped at $14,400 per year.


The commission issued a resolution stating that the raises for legislators are to be filed with the auditor’s office one day after the House and Senate eliminate reimbursements — implying that if the chambers do not eliminate reimbursements, the raises are not to take effect.


Companion bills, currently in shell form, have been filed in the House and Senate to end the reimbursements.


"We’ve said from the beginning that we were committed to making that go away, and we still are, and we will," Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, said Monday.


House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said Monday, "Their recommendation will be one that we will follow."


Ross said after the meeting that he voted against the plan because he believed "after hearing the public, that we needed to go back and at least line by line say, ‘OK, let’s talk about it.’"


Member Barbara Graves said she would have liked to revisit the raises for judges, which she thought were too high, but she said she voted with the majority because her only other option was to vote down all of the raises.


Asked what was gained by the public-comment period, Graves said, "Three of us are asking that question. What was gained?"


Before the commission was created, salaries of elected state officials were set by the state constitution, and the Legislature had the power to approve cost-of-living adjustments. Future salary adjustments will also be up to the commission but cannot exceed a 15 percent change.


The commission’s work this year is apparently not done: The House on Monday approved and sent to the governor a bill to require the commission to set salaries for prosecuting attorneys.


Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, told House members that prosecuting attorneys were inadvertently omitted from the constitutional amendment that created the commission.