University of California System Spending Big Money on Salary Boosts

Nothing new here: Officials spend extra taxes on themselves.


A number of years ago, I wrote about a California pest-control agency that had lobbied taxpayers to raise their property taxes to help fight a scary stinging insect called the red-imported fire ant. The extra dollars, officials said, were needed to halt an emerging threat to public safety. Shortly after voters complied, the agency significantly boosted compensation for its employees.s

After that episode, I was hoping more Californians would embrace the words of that old song by The Who: "Won't get fooled again." Yet, the same dynamic goes on endlessly, as agencies insist they lack the funds to provide needed services. But their spending often is far less than public-spirited.

The latest rendition involves the University of California system. One of the nation's premier universities, it has nearly 20,000 faculty members and 195,000 employees at its campuses and medical centers. It's funded in part through tuition and taxpayer dollars.

In November, the UC's governing board (regents) gave tentative approval to a 27.6-percent tuition increase over five years, arguing that the boost was necessary to assure a top-quality education. Gov. Jerry Brown opposed the hike, arguing the system could improve efficiencies. The university's demand was a ploy to convince political leaders to give the system more money.

Ultimately, the governor negotiated a deal with UC President Janet Napolitano. As part of the budget, the university gets a 4-percent general-fund spending increase and a large contribution toward its underfunded pension system and some other things. UC agreed to freeze tuition for two years for in-state students while hiking tuition for out-of-state students.

But the university quickly made its priorities clear. Last Thursday, regents hiked salaries by 3 percent for its top-paid executives. The new salaries range from $231,000 to $991,000. In solidarity with a labor-union campaign to boost the minimum wage across the country, regents approved a $15 minimum for all UC employees – including part-time workers and contractors.

The net cost: $14 million a year. "The University of California's mission statement proclaims that one of its fundamental missions is teaching and creating 'an educated workforce that keeps the California economy competitive,'" noted Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto, in a July 22 letter to Napolitano. "How does your decision today help California students achieve this mission?"

That's the key question whenever government-supported entities use new funds to boost salaries rather than invest in services for their"customers." I'm sure the new salaries will help students as much as the pest agency's compensation boosts helped stamp out the fire ant.

Olsen spokesperson Amanda Fulkerson said UC officials sat in legislative offices during a year of negotiations and never mentioned the planned salary increases: "Shouldn't this have been mentioned? It's indicative of how this new UC president has done business and it hasn't sat well, frankly."

While Fulkerson is on point, it wasn't hard to guess what would happen with a cash infusion. Last September, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the UC regents "gave 20 percent raises … to their lowest-paid chancellors – with some regents expressing regret that they could give so little." These employees receive more than $380,000 a year.

A 2009 article in the People's Vanguard of Davis (home to UC-Davis) was titled: "Inexplicable UC Executive Pay Bonuses Draw Fire Once Again." In 2008, a Democratic assemblyman introduced a bill to freeze UC executive pay after he became "fed up with large pay raises,"according to a Union-Tribune article. It was a similar refrain in 2006, with newspapers reporting UC regents retroactively increased pay and perks for executives.

One of my favorite, albeit dull-sounding, economic ideas is called "Public Choice Theory." Basically, it argues that people who work in bureaucracies share the same goals of self interest as anyone else. So when a bug-killing agency or a university begs for more money to help you, you should have little doubt its officials will first help themselves.

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  1. Employees represented by unions get increases every year. The professors and postdocs are getting increases. And staff? Nada. I like my job. I support wonderful research. But, if UC thinks I’m going to go out of my way for them, they can guess again.

    1. You should go work for the private sector to protest this.

      1. Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities and we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college. You don’t know what it’s like out there. I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.

        1. +1 Ghostbusters reference

          1. Unfortunately we all are getting slimed and it ain’t ectoplasm…

  2. There may be hope though. Our bug agency here in Marin/Sonoma put a tax measure on the ballot that was actually defeated. The agency said they needed the money to kill mosquitos when it was really meant to sustain pensions. The longer term problem is that the pensions will get funded and the mosquitos will get a reprieve.

  3. “One of my favorite, albeit dull-sounding, economic ideas is called “Public Choice Theory.” Basically, it argues that people who work in bureaucracies share the same goals of self interest as anyone else.”

    This, x1000.

    There’s this belief that putting the government in charge of something “takes the profit motive away” and thus ensures great results. But the profit motive absolutely does not disappear; it just takes different forms. Police asset forfeiture is one example. Colleges handing out do-nothing jobs that pay six figures a year is another.

    I know corporations are greedy and they sometimes act immorally in pursuit of profit, but shit, at least they’re up-front about their motives. I know that they just want money, and I can take that into consideration when I deal with them.

    One of the reasons that big government has been able to run wild is that they’ve convinced everyone that their employees are all angels sent from above who have no interest whatsoever in mere profits.

    1. Looters gonna loot.

    2. One of the founders said something to the effect that if men were angels, no government would be necessary, and if men were governed by angels, no constitution would be necessary. I wish statists would stop trying to pretend otherwise.

  4. Wait, but I have it on good authority that when humans work for government instead of corporations, they are selfless saints who would never lie, cheat or steal!

  5. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…

    1. You know who else had a job that made him happy?

      1. Bobby McFerrin?

      2. Pharrell Williams?

        1. William Ferrell?

  6. Ronald MacDonald or THE Donald ?

  7. Anyone who trusts Janet Napolitano needs their head examined.

  8. You gotta love Big Education – professors that make nice salaries, MAYBE have to teach ONE class, the rest are taught by grad students (T.E.’s who have zero real life experience), the T.E.’s staff the office hours, leaving said professors the time (with unpaid undergrads doing the work) to write endless grants for more taxpayer money (and expand their overall pay). People are getting rich, richer than your average private sector drudge, and the kids are getting a hollow, shit “education”. And the left cries tears over unpaid interns in the private sector, while herding eager beavers exploited within the halls of Higher Education every day.

    And Hillary wants to take away ANY market function that vestigially might exist.

    It’s a good thing we don’t live in a socialist country…

  9. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…

  10. One of the nation’s premier universities?

    No longer. The wholesale divestment and resulting devaluation of this once great institution by the voters of the State of California (you, me) will run its course.

    Public sector folks know you get what you pay for, right?

    Compare the executive salaries of the UC to true world class universities first, then speak.

    Compare the tuition of the UC to that of true world class universities, then speak.

    Compare the salaries of the rank and file staff to those of other universities, or even of those in the same jobs in the same city in the public sector. Then you can talk.

    All are markedly lower. Most UC workers have received barely 3% salary increase over the last 5 years.

    Your “premiere university” is being run by the talent level of the DMV, as you demand.

    How well would this sit in your public sector companies? Not well. Your companies would fail, being managed into the ground by less than stellar talent.

    This is what the California voters have bequeathed to “one of the nation’s premier universities”.

    And, you get what you pay for.

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