Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CIRM's 50 Percent Pay Range Hike Hits Roadblock

A key group of directors of the California stem cell agency today balked at boosting the maximum salary ranges of its top executives by 50 percent, citing the Golden State's budget deficit which has ballooned to $16 billion.

Reporter Jim Downing of The Sacramento Bee reported that members of CIRM's Governance Subcommittee said that increases of more than $200,000 (in the case of the CIRM president) were excessive. The subcommittee action came on the same day that news broke that the state budget deficit had increased another $1.5 billion.

CIRM President Alan Trounson, who earns $490,000, argued that the increases, which affect six other top positions at CIRM, were needed to attract top talent.

Downing quoted Trounson as saying,
"If I can't make appointments of people who can do the job, you've essentially wasted my salary, which is a disaster."
One of the members of the Governance Subcommittee is Claire Pomeroy, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine(see photo). Downing wrote,
"Pomeroy, whose cash compensation at UC Davis totals $543,800, according to a University of California spokeswoman, noted that she is responsible for 8,000 employees at UC Davis, while the stem cell agency president heads a staff of 50 at most.

"'To me, there are still very fundamental questions about what positions they're citing as comparable,' (Pomeroy) said. 'This is sending the wrong message to the public about our priorities and about how we're going to spend what are limited pots of money.'"
The subcommittee did not act on some of the proposed salary ranges because they affected both Trounson and CIRM Chairman Robert Klein, who were present for the meeting. Klein, however, has declined a salary.

The subcommittee recommended increasing the top pay for some executives from $270,000 to $332,000, rather than the proposed $405,000. They did not act on ranges for agency attorneys, citing a lack of information, Downing reported.

As we have noted, the proposed increases in the pay ranges would have no impact on the state budget because CIRM's budget is constitutionally untouchable. However, the pay raises are important symbolically and politically.

The pay proposal now goes to the full board of directors for its March meeting.

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