(This piece originally appeared in CalWatchdog.com)
Herbert Carter’s reconfirmation to the California State University Board of Trustees was dealt a major setback Thursday, as two Republican state Senators announced their opposition to his pending nomination. Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Santee, and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, told CalWatchDog.com that they will oppose the embattled Cal State Chairman’s appointment to a second term, which could be voted on by the full Senate as early as today.
“Since 1984, Herbert Carter has been near the center of every CSU pay hike scandal,” said Anderson, the first senator to publicly oppose Carter’s confirmation. “With my ‘no’ vote I intend to send a clear message to the students, parents, and taxpayers we deserve better from higher education than skyrocketing tuition, poor planning, and little oversight.”
Anderson’s announcement was followed a few hours later by a similar statement from the Senate Republican leader’s office.
“I cannot recommend that Trustee Carter’s nomination be confirmed by the Senate until such time as Californians see real evidence that the CSU Trustees are making the tough decisions needed to control escalating costs that are being passed onto students and their families,” read Huff’s statement.
Salary and Benefits Toga Party
CalWatchDog.com has previously reported on the lucrative pay and benefits that have been approved under Carter’s tenure as chair. According to data from the Cal State University chancellor’s office, the average Cal State president receives a an average base salary of more than $300,000, which is more than many of the country’s top private sector executives. The average total compensation package for the 23 Cal State presidents totals $372,000 per year. Each Cal State president also receives up to $60,000 per year in a housing allowance and $12,000 per year for a car allowance.
Last summer, Gov. Jerry Brown, who re-nominated Carter to his position, expressed reservations about the Trustee’s failure to rein in excessive executive compensation.
“I fear your approach to compensation is setting a pattern for public service we cannot afford,” the governor wrote in a July 12 letter to Carter. “The assumption is that you cannot find a qualified man or woman to lead the university unless paid twice that of the Chief Justice of the United States. I reject this notion.”
Speaking on behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus, Huff echoed the Governor’s concerns about the Cal State University’s executive compensation policies.
“Members of the Senate Republican Caucus shared the governor’s concerns regarding administrative pay packages,” he said. “The governor’s concerns and his specific request were not addressed.”
In January, the board approved a new compensation policy after public outcry following the trustees’ approval of a $400,000 annual salary for San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman. The carefully-worded cap allows the board to continue its controversial policy of supplementing executive pay through university foundations. CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, San Jose State’s Mohammad H. Qayoum, San Diego State’s Hirshman and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Jeffrey Armstrong currently receive foundation bonuses ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per year.
Huff’s statement gives some indication that the Senate Republican Caucus will unite against Carter’s appointment. Trustees must be confirmed by two-thirds of the State Senate. If every Democratic senator supports his reconfirmation, Carter would still need at least two Republican votes.
Jon Fleischman, publisher of the Flash Report, called the reconfirmation vote the first major test for the newly appointed Senate Republican leader.
“For Senator Huff, this is really the first flag that Senate Republicans have planted in the ground since he became leader,” he wrote. “How the vote goes will demonstrate the strength of his leadership on the GOP side, and the unity of Republicans in the upper chamber.”
A holdover from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s term, Carter has presided over several rounds of tuition increases. In November, Carter was among the nine trustees to vote in favor a 9 percent tuition increase on the system’s 409,000 students. Since 2004, Carter’s first year on the board, tuition has increased from $2,334 per year to just under $6,000 for the upcoming 2012-13 academic term.
The Senate Rules Committee’s quietly approved Carter’s nomination to a second term on Feb. 15. The full Senate must confirm the appointment by February 29.