SACRAMENTO -- A controversial proposal to boost top executive pay by 13 percent to 17 percent was yanked from the agenda by a committee of the University of California regents, who said they endorse the salary hikes in principle but need more time for analysis.
The salary proposal, which has yet to be discussed in public, would provide pay raises of 33 percent over four years, with the aim of bringing the 10 chancellors' pay up to what regents say is the "market" level paid by similar institutions.
The regents' compensation committee, meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday and Thursday, postponed the matter to January. Meanwhile, the committee recommended that the full Board of Regents give the 10 chancellors the same 5 percent raise this year that all other senior managers are getting.
State senator fumes
Critics of the proposed 33 percent hike contend the regents decided to duck the matter because political opposition is too hot at the moment.
"We caught them trying to sneak it through," said an incensed Leland Yee, a state senator who sponsored a law requiring the UC governing board to discuss such business in public. It takes effect Jan. 1.
"They'll wait a little, hoping we've expended our energy," said the San Francisco Democrat. "But the workers, the faculty, the students and the lawmakers are upset and we won't let them get away with it."
Regent Judith L. Hopkinson, a former executive of Ameriquest Capital Corp., said Wednesday that the compensation committee simply needs more information.
"But it's important to note," Hopkinson said, "that the regents have also expressed their strong support and commitment to address competitive pay for the chancellors."
She said that the chancellors, who head the University of California system's 10 campuses, are paid 33 percent below comparable universities on average -- "which is unfair to them and creates significant challenges in recruitment."
The now-postponed agenda item called for eliminating the lag within four years by giving chancellors pay hikes totaling $3 million.
For UC-Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau, a 33 percent increase would boost his current $416,000 annual salary to $553,280. For UC-Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, the increase would raise his $300,000 annual salary to $399,000.
Garamendi scoffs at raises
UC President Robert Dynes, whose office issued the pay-hike proposal, has argued that the higher salaries are necessary to recruit new chancellors and to keep them once they are on the job.
At least one regent scoffs at that notion: Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who serves on the board and is an outspoken foe of executive-pay increases when student fees are rising and the state is facing a budget crisis.
"I think this is very bad timing, and inappropriate," Garamendi said Wednesday. "They talk about having trouble recruiting, but three of the 10 chancellors have just been hired, at Santa Cruz, UCLA and Merced. Apparently these new folks were willing to take the salary that was offered."