During the last couple of weeks, I have spent a lot time in the state capital with three goals in mind: reduce the budget cuts for the UC system, block the confirmation of the new regent David Crane, and clarify the state’s obligation to the UC pension plan. After a long talk with Governor Brown, I thought that all of these goals were achievable, but currently, due to the budget stalemate, my optimism has been reduced.
On the positive side, I met with Senator Steinberg’s staff, and I told them that the governor does not support Crane, and it appears that Steinberg also does not want him confirmed. There are then three possibilities: the governor can withdraw the appointment now, Steinberg can call for a confirmation hearing, or we could just wait for a year, do nothing, and have the appointment expire. I think we all agreed that a hearing would be the best path, but no one wants to do anything until after a budget deal is made.
In terms of the pension, the governor has agreed to set up a meeting with union representatives, people from Office of the President, and the governor’s labor people to discuss UCRS. While Brown did not commit to the state contributing to the plan now, he did say he would approach the subject with an open mind. However, we also discussed the possibility of a Republican-sponsored proposition going on the ballot that would limit the yearly pension payout to the social security wage rate, which is currently $106,000. It was unclear if this initiative would apply to UC employees, but my fear is that if the UC gets money from the state for the pension, it would have to play by the state’s rules.
On the final topic of the budget cuts, no one wanted to add any language or make any changes that would stall the very fragile budget negotiations. While many people agreed that the state should protect the core mission of the UC, it looks like the language in the budget will be vague and open to interpretation. Still, I was told by the governor’s finance team that if a budget passes next week, they will start working on the next budget, and we might be able to add some stronger protections then.
You can read my Huffington Post article on Pensions, Unions, and the Media here.