Two key higher education bills, one regulating executive salaries and the other calling for more transparency, moved forward in the Legislature this week.
The first reintroduced earlier, vetoed legislation that would prohibit pay raises for top administrators during years when the state is having budget troubles. It is similar to a bill the Legislature passed in 2009 only to have it vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been replaced by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Its sponsor, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said he is appalled by high salaries going to college executives as students are asked to pay more in tuition and other fees.
State Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, supported the 2009 bill when he was a state Assemblyman. His office told The Tribune he cannot commit to the new bill until he has looked at the details, which Yee is shaping.
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Yee said he acted after the governing boards of the University of California and California State University systems increased executive pay while raising student fees earlier this year.
At the same meeting during which the CSU Board of Trustees raised fall tuition by 12 percent, on top of a 10 percent increase approved last year, they awarded the new president of San Diego State a $400,000 salary. That’s $100,000 more than his predecessor.
The UC Board of Regents raised tuition by 9.6 percent, on top of an 8 percent increase already approved for the fall semester, while also giving the head of the UC San Francisco Medical Center a nearly $200,000 raise, bringing his yearly base salary to $935,000, as well as a retention bonus of $1 million over four years.
High pay became an issue in San Luis Obispo as well in January, when the CSU trustees gave new Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong a $350,000 salary, which was supplemented with $30,000 from the Cal Poly Foundation.
Armstrong also was reimbursed for travel and relocation expenses, including the costs of selling his home in Michigan. He also receives a vehicle allowance of up to $1,000 per month and health and other benefit provisions provided to CSU presidents.
The pay and perks going to top administrators even as students are priced out of a college education has generated considerable public anger, which Yee is tapping into.
Yee’s legislation would prohibit such pay increases for the system’s top administrators, including campus presidents and chancellors, in years in which the university’s allocation from the state does not increase.
“The action taken by the Regents and Trustees is appalling and reinforces the perception that they are completely out of touch,” Yee said. “UC and CSU are public institutions, not Wall Street banks. Once and for all, it is time to stop these egregious compensation practices and restore the public trust.”
Another higher education bill also went to the governor Thursday, this one a transparency bill that brings UC and CSU foundations and auxiliaries under the California Public Records Act.
Yee, who also introduced this bill, said, “It is still not entirely clear how much money UC and CSU executives may be receiving from their campus foundations and auxiliaries.”
The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature with one dissenting vote, that of Blakeslee.
Blakeslee said the bill intrudes on the privacy of nonprofit organizations. He said he believes the legislation, while well-intentioned, could chill relationships between donors and other entities from giving to the CSU, UC and community colleges just when they need to attract more support from nonprofits.
Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who replaced Blakeslee in the Assembly last year, voted in favor of the transparency legislation.