Lawmakers look to limit CSU executive pay

CSU trustees in January approved a new executive compensation policy [PDF] that caps the amount of base pay new campus presidents can earn at no more than 10 percent above their predecessors' pay. In the first application of the new policy, trustees last week signed off on full 10 percent pay raises for two new presidents at CSU East Bay and CSU Fullerton.

The move came as CSU officials announced that they would limit spring admissions to all but a few hundred students due to state budget cuts, shutting out tens of thousands of would-be college-goers. If Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax measure fails, the system also might deny admission to up to 25,000 qualified applicants in fall 2013.

The day after trustees approved the pay increases, SB 952 from Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, which would lock the 10 percent cap on CSU executive raises into statute for six years, passed out of the Senate Education Committee. As an urgency measure, it would take effect in July.

Both the Alquist bill and the new CSU policy cap the portion of executives' base salary that comes from the state general fund, as opposed to any supplemental funding from university foundations. CSU system Chancellor Charles B. Reed, as well as the presidents at San Diego State University, San Jose State University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, receive salary supplements from university foundations.

A bill from Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, that would have cut closer to the bone than SB 952 was killed last week. Yee's bill would have prohibited pay increases for top administrators during bad budget years or within two years of a student fee increase. In years when raises were allowable, they would have been capped at 5 percent above the predecessor's pay.

Yee said in a statement that by killing the bill, the Education Committee sent the wrong message.

"Rather than stand up for students and faculty, they protected the 1 percent and condoned CSU's bad behavior. CSU students and California taxpayers deserve better than the status quo," Yee said.

In a statement, Alquist described her bill as just the starting point for reining in CSU pay, calling the hearing in the Education Committee "just the first step in the lengthy legislative process."

"My colleagues and I will continue to strengthen the bill as it moves through the process," she said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, called trustees "tone deaf" and called for legislators to take a stronger approach.

And CSU East Bay alum Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, called for a moratorium on pay raises, saying she was "shocked and dismayed" that her alma mater's new president is getting a significant pay raise at the same time that admissions are being cut and academic programs are being slashed.

Corbett isn't the only lawmaker whose alma mater is involved. Of the 97 California lawmakers who responded to a 2011 survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 of them -- or 27 percent -- attended a CSU school.

Yee, too, has an affiliation with CSU, having earned his master's degree from San Francisco State University, his bio says. Alquist and Steinberg studied elsewhere. According to her bio, Alquist earned her bachelor's degree from MacMurray College in Illinois and her master's from Washington University. Steinberg's bio indicates he attended UCLA for his bachelor's degree and UC Davis School of Law for his law degree.

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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