It’s time to talk about out-of-control Arkansas government salaries
2 min read

It’s time to talk about out-of-control Arkansas government salaries

Government Reform
Nov 22
2 min read

Do you know who the highest state employee is in the state of Arkansas? If you guessed "the governor,” you'd be off. Way off, in fact.

In fact, there are roughly 270 state government positions in Arkansas that are paid more than the governor's annual salary.

For context, the governor earns just under $160,000 per year. The highest paid state employee—the chief medical examiner—earns more than twice that much at about $350,000 per year.

Nearly $50 million every year is paid to Arkansas bureaucrats who earn more than the governor.

With the the median salary of Arkansans currently a measly $27,000 and change per year, something is clearly out of whack.

In terms of total salaries by agency, by far the largest culprit is the Arkansas Department of Human Services. DHS comprises more than $300 million in salaries, or 20 percent of the state's total payroll.

For comparison, the Department of Agriculture pays out less than $25 million in salaries.

But these astonishing figures also provide an opportunity. If we simply capped state salaries at the same level as the governor's, it would save Arkansas taxpayers nearly $6.4 million in the first fiscal year alone.

Shockingly, the $50 million paid to the bureaucrats earning more than the governor doesn't even account for those working in the state's publicly-funded university system. For example, at the University of Arkansas Medical Center, nearly $1 billion in compensation was paid out last fiscal year, including seven-figure salaries to individuals with the title of "professor." So, if Arkansas was to adopt a salary cap, the true amount of savings would be even higher.

Capping state salaries could also encourage entrenched bureaucrats to retire or seek other employment, bringing in new, fresh perspectives.

The size and scope of the state workforce in Arkansas is already severely bloated compared to neighboring states and is costing taxpayers precious resources. If we were to get a better handle on state salaries and positions, it could go a long way towards providing greater tax relief to Arkansans (i.e. eliminating the state income tax).

If policymakers are serious about reining in out-of-control state government, a salary cap for Arkansas bureaucrats should definitely be on the table.

Image of the story authorHayden Dublois
Visiting Economist

Hayden Dublois is the Visiting Economist at Opportunity Arkansas. His primary research areas are welfare, health care, workforce, unemployment, and tax policy.

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