State Assembly proposes bill to cap UC employee compensation

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In light of recent concerns regarding the state of the University of California’s budget, the state Assembly proposed a bill last week that would cap UC employee compensation at $500,000.

Assembly Bill 837, introduced in February by state Assemblymember Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, would prohibit the university from paying any of its employees or officers a salary that exceeds $500,000 per fiscal year. According to the text of the bill, the cap is meant to address substantial public concern over the high salaries paid to some UC personnel.

The bill comes after a tuition increase policy passed in November by the UC Board of Regents.

In 2013, 387 UC employees earned more than $500,000, according to UC data. Of the 11 UC Berkeley employees who fall into this category, five were coaches. Moreover, the top five earning employees across all campuses in 2013 were also coaches.

The university has not yet taken a position on the bill, according to UC spokesperson Shelly Meron, who added that only 3 percent of the UC system’s 195,000 employees earn more than $200,000 a year. She said the university’s top executive positions make up less than 1 percent of all employees, and their combined earnings equate to less than 0.25 percent of the UC system’s entire budget.

Meron added that in 2013, only 23 percent of the UC payroll came from general state funds and tuition; the rest is covered by the federal government, private contracts, grants and gifts.

A previous attempt to limit UC employee salaries was unsuccessful. Former California state senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, introduced Senate Bill 967 in 2012, which attempted to prohibit UC trustees from increasing the salaries of or approving bonuses for any executive officer of the university within two years of UC student fee increases or budget cuts. The bill failed to pass the Senate in April 2012.

Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, a union that supports Hernandez’s bill, said the bill will apply not only to all UC faculty and executive members but also coaches and medical staff.

Stenhouse added that UC employee salaries have risen 300 percent since 2007 and that the bill, if passed, could potentially save the UC system $80 million annually.

“(UC employees) are public servants,” Stenhouse said. “But we have not been putting students first enough. What kind of return are students getting for their investment right now if salaries keep skyrocketing and tuition is raised as a result?”

The UC system will also be subject to an audit by the state legislature later this summer, which will focus on the university’s budget process, enrollment of nonresident students and executive compensation.

Contact Jessie Qian at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jessieq96.