Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) issued a stern warning to University of California officials this week, saying that if the UC system follows through with plans to hike student fees, it will face the renewed scrutiny of the California Legislature.
The Democratic leader said lawmakers would focus on executive compensation in particular, arguing at a UC regents meeting Thursday that the higher education system had rewarded administrators with generous salaries and bonuses while hiking tuition for middle-class students.
The result, he said, is a generation of Californians saddled with debt.
"It limits the choices that they make and the options that they have to make their full imprint on this state," Perez told regents. "We need to be very clear that we have an expectation in the Legislature that you do no additional harm to access to the university."
Regent Richard Blum said UC must recruit the best leaders and that underpaying them "is a good way to turn this place into a junior college in about 15 years."
Lawmakers for years have called on UC and Cal State administrators to rein in their compensation practices.
State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced legislation that would ban pay hikes for top administrators at public universities in bad budget years or when student fees increase. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in 2009 and it fell one vote short of passage in the Senate Education Committee in 2011.
Perez told UC officials that if they go through with their plans to raise some student fees, "you will find a speaker that is less receptive to your efforts to stop legislation that is aimed at limiting your ability to compensate your executive officials at the level that you have."
Legislative Republicans have also proposed a seven-year freeze on tuition and fee increases at California’s public universities and community colleges to correspond with the length of tax increases under voter-approved Proposition 30.
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento