A bill to prohibit executive pay hikes in the California State University system died in a state Senate committee this week, and its supporters — including Central Coast legislator Sam Blakeslee — don’t like either its demise or the way that it perished.
The bill, SB 967, follows a series of raises given to top executives at the state’s colleges. Handed out at a time when student tuitions are shooting up, the boosts have been seen as both embarrassing and unfair.
This past year, trustees raised fall tuition twice at CSU schools — by 9.6 percent and then again by 12 more percent.Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, supported SB 967 earlier and intended to do so once again in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
However, his aide Erin Shaw wrote in an email to The Tribune, “We encountered an unusual occurrence.”“It is common,” she wrote, “for members sitting in hours-long committees to step out of committees to present bills, vote in other committees, and meet with constituents.”
Blakeslee briefly left the Education Committee on Wednesday to meet with a Morro Bay city official, she wrote. When he returned, he asked that committee chair Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat from Long Beach, add his vote of support. Lowenthal would not do so.
The final tally was 4-3 against SB 967, so Blakeslee’s affirmative vote would not have changed the outcome. But he believes the matter ended prematurely, and wanted his support on the record. Shaw said he is “disappointed” and still supports the tenets of the bill.
Meanwhile, on the substance of the bill, its chief sponsor, Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, is accusing committee members of “condoning CSU’s bad behavior.”
“CSU students and California taxpayers deserve better than the status quo,” he said.
Yee noted that the CSU Board of Trustees recently approved 10 percent pay hikes for two of their six-figure executives — $324,500 plus housing and a $12,000 per year car allowance for the next Cal State Fullerton president and $303,660 plus $60,000 per year for housing and a $12,000 per year car allowance for the new Cal State East Bay president.
Few people approved, Yee noted, and when the Education Committee killed SB 967, it did so “despite overwhelming bipartisan support from student groups, university faculty, labor unions and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.”Yee said the committee approved a competing bill two weeks ago that fell short of addressing the problem.
That bill prohibits hikes, he wrote, but only for the next two years, “and then allows double-digit pay hikes indefinitely, regardless of the economy or student tuition.”
“In addition,” Yee wrote, the competing bill “would allow CSU to give exorbitant increases using foundation dollars — which are generally used for student scholarships and other student services.”
His own bill, he wrote, would have prohibited hikes regardless of the source.
“Unfortunately,” Yee wrote, the bill that passed “codifies this abhorrent practice of catering to university elites. Rather than approving SB 967 and putting a stop to these exorbitant pay hikes, the committee instead has ensured in perpetuity that students suffer and executives get rich.”
In 2009, Yee ushered through a bill nearly identical to SB 967 to stop executive pay hikes, but former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.