State Assembly committee passes bill that would cap UC salaries

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At a Tuesday hearing, the California State Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education passed a bill that would establish a cap on UC employees’ salaries as a condition of receiving state funding.\

Introduced Feb. 26, the original version of AB 837 would aim to prevent the University of California system from paying any of its employees a salary that exceeds $500,000. Since then, the bill has been amended to include a stipulation that the UC system must publish compensation information for its employees.

The first such publication of employee information would be on or before Feb. 1, 2016, and continue by every Feb. 1 thereafter. This information would include the cost of employer-paid benefit plan contributions, sources of funding for compensation costs and statistical summary reports for April and October.

“It is imperative that we retain an ability to attract highly qualified employees to carry on the important work of the University,” said Steve Juarez, the director of state governmental relations for the UC Office of the President, in a statement released earlier this month.

He pointed out that the UC system must have a competitive edge to attract employees with the expertise to run its operations, which include five medical centers and three national laboratories. Juarez also added that many of these employees are already being paid below market value.

In July of last year, the University of California published its report on 2013 employee pay, which stated that the 10 top earning UC employees were health sciences faculty members and athletic coaches. With regard to UC Berkeley, in 2013, 11 employees earned more than $500,000 — the top four of which were sports coaches. Current head football coach Sonny Dykes signed a five-year $9.7 million contract in 2013.

Wesley Mallette, associate athletic director for Cal Athletics, stated in an email that the program is “focused on providing compensation that is competitive and market driven.”

Israel Landa, a legislative aide to Assemblymember Jose Medina, the chair of the higher education committee, acknowledged the role of money in attracting qualified employees but said other questions of spending must also be considered.

“If this bill passes, you can’t spend more than $500,000 on employees, so that saves money, and you can spend that money somewhere else,” Landa said. “It’s not going to change the whole situation. But we need to ask, ‘How do you fund the institution not just through students?’ ”

Considerations for capping employee salaries come after the UC regents approved a tuition hike policy in November.

Next, the bill will proceed to the appropriations committee and potentially to the Assembly floor.

Contact Ivana Saric at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ivanas26.