Outgoing Democratic attorney general in Arkansas urges panel to give GOP successor a raise

The outgoing Democratic attorney general of Arkansas on Monday urged a panel reviewing elected officials' salaries to more than double his Republican successor's pay, saying the state's top attorney is paid less than most lawyers in the office.

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Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote a letter to the Independent Citizens Commission to recommend that it raise incoming Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's pay from $73,132 a year to at least $165,000. The seven-member panel was created to review and adjust salaries for Arkansas legislators, constitutional officers and judges.

McDaniel said the AG is one of the lowest paid attorneys in the office, with every deputy attorney general paid between $35,000 and $45,000 more. He noted the AG is paid less than local prosecutors, the general counsel for the University of Arkansas and the governor's legal adviser.

McDaniel, a Democrat who was first elected in 2006, is leaving office Tuesday due to term limits. Rutledge was elected to the post in November.

"I would have paid the state for the privilege to do this job, but in reality the state would be better off paying what the job is worth," McDaniel said in the letter. "I have great faith in General Rutledge, and I know that fair compensation will attract qualified and competent lawyers to seek, hold and serve in this office for generations to come."

Rutledge said she trusted the panel to make the right decision, but stopped short of saying whether she agreed with McDaniel's recommendation.

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"I am confident the Independent Citizens Commission will decide what is the best compensation for the attorney general and other offices," she said in a prepared statement.

The panel was created through a constitutional amendment voters approved that imposed new ethics rules on elected officials and eased lawmakers' term limits. The salaries for the positions had previously been set by the constitution, which allowed lawmakers to make cost-of-living adjustments.

The panel faces a Feb. 2 deadline to issue its initial review of elected officials' salaries.

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