Bill Aims to Implement UC Pension Plan Limits

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California State Assemblymember Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, sponsored a bill aimed at closing the loophole providing for increased retirement pensions for some of the state's highest-paid employees, thereby adding his two cents to a debate between members of the UC Board of Regents, UC President Mark Yudof and 36 university executives.

Introduced on Jan. 6, Assembly Bill 89 is the latest installment in a discourse dating from December, when the executives signed a letter to the UC Office of the President threatening legal action if a 1999 regents proposal to increase pensions of employees making upward of $245,000 was not enacted. The letter sparked responses from Yudof and Russell Gould, chair of the Board of Regents, as well as the 1,453 members of the university community who signed a petition urging the regents to resist the executives' request.

If passed, AB 89 would take effect Jan. 1, 2012 and would put the pension limit of $245,000 in state statute, forcing the university to honor the cap despite the IRS waiver. But it would not provide a definitive answer to the argument over the proposal's nature.

In a letter and position paper dated Dec. 9, the executives stated that the university was obligated to calculate their pensions based on their total salary, after the IRS lifted the limit on pension calculations in 2007, and that the proposal was a binding policy that should be retroactively implemented.

The 36 executives declined to comment on the issue.

But Yudof and Gould issued a statement on Jan. 4 refuting that claim, saying, "the action taken by the Board 10 years ago was not self-executing and the pension proposal was never implemented."

Christopher Edley, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law and a signatory of the executives' letter, responded in a blog post on Jan. 10 to Yudof and Gould's statement and to the outcry from members of the university community. Edley cited a need for high levels of compensation to hire and retain new faculty and administrators.

Estimates of the number of employees affected by the proposal range widely. While the executives' position paper states that over 200 employees would be affected by the measure, Edley cited "450 affected individuals." In an interview on Jan. 4, Steve Montiel, a UC spokesperson, said he could not confirm the cost of enacting the proposal, although some estimates range in the millions.

While Yudof intended to introduce an item at the December regents' meeting calling for the elimination of the 1999 proposal, the measure was postponed to allow time for further consideration after protests from the executives, said Montiel on Jan. 4. The item is expected to be on the agenda at a regents' meeting in the future. If it passes, the 1999 proposal will be abandoned - although the executives may still challenge that decision in court.


Nina Brown covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected]



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