Sunday, September 12, 2010

CIRM Salaries: More Than You Want to Know

Salaries at the California stem cell agency tend to be generous when compared to most other state agencies and have triggered comments from some that they are, in fact, “outrageous.”

However, in 2009 the salary of CIRM President Alan Trounson was only $490,182.97, well below the $2.3 million for the head football coach, Jeff Tedford, at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Tedford earned the most of any of California's public servants that year. No. 2 was another UC coach. No. 3 was an academic with $1.9 million. He is Timothy H. McCalmont, a professor of clinical pathology and dermatology at UC San Francisco.

Nonetheless, Trounson, Tedford and McCalmont all share one common characteristic. Their salaries are of a magnitude that makes California voters gasp and shudder. They have a visceral, negative reaction to what they regard as excessive wages for government employees – a reaction that is not necessarily perfectly rational.

The governor, who makes $212,179, and state lawmakers, who make $116,208, effectively can do nothing to change CIRM salaries. Prop. 71, which created the stem cell agency, walled it off from mischievous fingers that might want to meddle.

Currently CIRM's executive salaries are below the radar of both public and news media. But CIRM is considering proposing, as soon as two years from now, another multibillion dollar ballot measure to extend the existence of the stem cell research effort. That could raise significantly the attention level of the salaries.

Interestingly, the agency partly justifies its salaries on the basis that the agency could go out of business as soon as 2015 when it may run out of its original $3 billion. However, an additional $4 billion bond measure could prolong its life for another 10 years or more.

We have written from time to time about salary issues at CIRM. The agency itself has a number of pertinent documents. But dredging up all the relevant material can be laborious. To help readers navigate the salary information, we have prepared a reading list of stem cell agency documents, a state salary database and selected articles from the California Stem Cell Report. More items can be found on this web site by searching on the term “salaries.”

We will be preparing more reading lists on California stem cell topics. If you would like to see a reading list on a particular subject, please send a note along to Or you can simply make a request via the “comment” function at the end of this item. Just click on the word “comment.”

The salaries reading list can be found here and here.

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