LITTLE ROCK — Two Arkansas Supreme Court justices were among five people who spoke at a public hearing Monday on a slate of proposed salary increases for legislators, constitutional officers and judges.

LITTLE ROCK — Two Arkansas Supreme Court justices were among five people who spoke at a public hearing Monday on a slate of proposed salary increases for legislators, constitutional officers and judges.


Justices Karen Baker and Josephine Hart asked the state Independent Citizens Commission to consider a larger increase for members of the state’s top court than it has proposed, while the other speakers’ comments ranged from praise to a condemnation of the proposed increases as a "scam."


The commission, created under a constitutional amendment that voters approved in November, gave preliminary approval Jan. 30 to proposed salaries, including $180,000 a year for the Supreme Court chief justice, up from the current $161,601, and $166,500 a year for Supreme Court justices, up from $149,589.


Monday’s public hearing followed a 30-day public-comment period. The commission decided Monday to meet March 16 for a final vote.


Baker and Hart told the panel that unlike Court of Appeals justices, they receive no mileage reimbursement and that lawyers and judges are unlikely to want to run for the Supreme Court for $166,500 a year.


"Most of them probably are smarter than I am and realize that considering the extra expenses and lack of reimbursement, and the onerous task of running a statewide election, that it would not be in their financial interest to do that," Baker said. "It may prevent us from getting the best and the brightest from the trial bench."


Baker recommended that the Supreme Court chief justice be paid $182,500 a year and the justices be paid $180,000 a year.


Hart told the commission, "Successful lawyers who right now are making a lot more money than we are are only going to (run for the Supreme Court) if we compensate them for their time and interest."


Hart told reporters later she favored setting the chief justice’s annual salary at $181,000 and the justices’ at $179,000.


Also during Monday’s hearing, Little Rock lawyer Scott Trotter praised the commission’s proposed salary increases.


"I would encourage you to stay put with your proposals. I think that they’re reasonable," he said.


Two people spoke in opposition to the proposed salaries.


Scott Minton of Little Rock took particular exception to the commission’s proposal to increase legislators’ annual pay to $39,400, more than double the current level of $15,869.


"Did you consider the average pay raise of the working taxpayer when you thought about this?" Minton said.


The commission’s plan also includes a recommendation that the House and Senate eliminate reimbursements for legislative and home offices, currently capped at $14,400 per legislator per year.


Rick Wells of Little Rock said, "Scam. Cheat. Shenanigans. Every one of you. You guys are cons."


Public comments that were submitted to the commission in writing can be viewed at citizenscommission.ar.gov.