The Arkansas Department of Correction could have seen a fix to a multi-million dollar back pay issue in the form of a bill (HB1002) that didn't make it past committee in the special legislative session.
Representative Jim Nickels had filed the bill which would add roughly $5 million to the ADC budget each year to cover holiday comp time pay. As of now, the system owes 3,355 employees more than $8.7 million in pay for holiday hours they've already worked or are owed as comp time.
"I've been working to try and address this issue for the three terms I've been a representative," Nickels said. "This an item the system has to pay but it isn't included in its budget. It's a debt off the books."
Nickels would have required 29 votes to move the bill forward, he received only 19 in support of the bill and 19 against.
"This is money these people are owed," Nickels said. "We have an inmate that has escaped and as I understand it there will be some correctional officers still working to capture him this weekend. On July 4th, they'll be working to bring him back into custody, but they won't be receiving pay for it."
According to the Department of Correction, the agency has been requesting that the $4.5 annual cost be added into the base budget. So far, that hasn't occurred and has left the system to look for ways to cover the costs, but those hours often accrue.
"We're hoping to get that amount of money added into our base as part of our continuing operation and we don't have to keep looking for ways to pay our employees," said Shea Wilson, Department of Correction spokesperson. "We'd like to be able to pay employees what they're owed when they earn it."
According to the department, one officer is owed more than 700 holiday work hours. The department is hoping that the issue will be addressed during fall budget hearings and resolved during the next General Session.
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