Column: ‘U’ brain trust goes too farIn the wake of Republicans being swept into office in both the Minnesota House and Senate comes the latest example of government running amok.
By: Steve Drazkowski, Mazeppa, The Republican Eagle
In the wake of Republicans being swept into office in both the Minnesota House and Senate comes the latest example of government running amok.
Last week, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents selected a new president. Erik Kaler has nice credentials and is a university graduate, so he knows the lay of the land.
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, Kaler was named the sole finalist because he was willing to accept the “hometown discount” in terms of his salary. Surely, 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 common sense goes out the window.
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 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 Kaler $610,000 per year over the next four years plus $50,000 in supplemental retirement for each year after the first.
Overpay is big problem
We are in an economically challenging time, yet the University of Minnesota officials — who will undoubtedly visit the Capitol this year and urge lawmakers to preserve school funding — has decided to thumb its nose at the state’s financial problems and significantly overpay its next commanding officer.
In the midst of all the government bailouts and the continued funding of pork projects across our nation, the will of the people on Nov. 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 no reason to do so.
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 a 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 threw money around, and, with Minnesota facing a $6 billion deficit over the next two years, that is 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 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 Kaler’s contract, visit www.house.mn/28B and click on “President’s Contract” under the News Items heading.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, can be reached at (651) 296-2273 or firstname.lastname@example.org