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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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DOES MONEY GROW ON TREES? THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA SEEMS TO THINK SO

Wednesday, December 08, 2010
In the wake of Republicans being swept into office in both the Minnesota House and Senate comes the latest example of government running amok, and yet another example of why conservatives were chosen to lead our state over the next two years. Last week, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents selected a new president. Erik Kaler will soon take over the institution. He has nice credentials, and is a former University graduate, so he knows the lay of the land. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. But for some unknown reason, he was the only candidate in America deemed worthy enough to head the U of M. Literally, he was selected as the only finalist for this prestigious job. Maybe, some wondered, Mr. Kaler was named the sole finalist because he was willing to accept the “hometown discount” in terms of his salary. Surely, Mr. Kaler was apprised of the fact that fiscal times are tough in this state, and with a historic budget deficit looming, he probably wouldn’t be able to secure as large of a salary as he might at another school. But when you’re dealing with bureaucrats and others who are given the ability to spend public dollars without recourse, often times commonsense spending goes out the window. And in the case of Mr. Kaler’s hiring, that has happened once again. Let’s analyze these facts. Kaler, as provost of Stony Brook, received a salary of $354,000. The median salary from 2008-09 for Big Ten Conference presidents (of which the U of M belongs) was $350,000. In 2009-10, the median salary for the president of any college system was $437,500. Retiring U of M President Robert Bruininks makes $455,000. With that in mind, the brain trust at the University of Minnesota elected to give Mr. Kaler $610,000 per year over the next four years to become the next president plus $50,000 in supplemental retirement for each year after the first. We are in an economically challenging time, yet the University of Minnesota – who will undoubtedly visit the Capitol this year and urge lawmakers to preserve its funding – has decided to thumb its nose at the state’s financial problems and significantly overpay its next commanding officer. This is yet another example of government not being accountable to the people. In the midst of all the government bailouts and the continued funding of pork projects across our nation, the will of the people on November 2 should have been heard loud and clear: Cut back on spending and be responsible. Instead, the University, in my opinion, grossly overpaid for its new president when it had absolutely no reason to do so. It’s true; Mr. Kaler may have turned down a $350,000 or $400,000 offer, even if it represented a significant personal raise from his previous job. If that had happened, maybe the University could have scoured the nation for another qualified man or woman - one that would be willing to accept an annual salary equivalent to an amount that it takes most people who live and pay taxes in southeastern Minnesota six years or more to earn. Instead, the University chose to throw money around like it grows on trees, and with Minnesota facing a $6 billion deficit over the next two years, that is simply irresponsible. I wish Mr. Kaler nothing but the best as he prepares to lead the University of Minnesota. I’m sure our paths will cross before long at the State Capitol as he shares his vision for the U of M for the next decade. When that happens, I plan to share my thoughts on the University’s latest edition of taxpayer abuse, and why I’ll be highlighting this example as I begin to argue for the first $500,000 of the University of Minnesota’s funding allocation reduction for the upcoming biennium – representing taxpayers’ offset to the egregious waste incurred as part of an outlandish presidential salary offer. To view a copy of President Kaler’s contract, visit Rep. Drazkowski’s website at www.house.mn/28B and click on “President’s Contract” under the News Items heading.