Government needs to fight for people—not for the privileged.
In these tough budget times, we need to be extra careful with our tax dollars. In the higher education budget, we asked college administrators and executives to find ways to tighten their belts. They told us that they had done everything they could to cut costs. Then, some of them told us they might need to raise students' tuition or fees.
Today, an audit revealed that top executives and administrators of the University of Missouri system gave themselves over $2 million in hidden bonuses over the past three years. That's $2 million in extra cash and luxury vehicle allowances on top of their salaries. Worse, the bonuses weren't based on any solid numbers for performance. I'm all for good pay for people who do a good job, but I won't support giving tax dollars to people without proven results. And I definitely won't support doing that at the expense of students and families.
Here's the deal: Top University of Missouri leaders (anyone with dean, president, chancellor, provost, director, chief, and chair in their job titles) already get more than $62 million in combined annual salary. Salaries of those upper-level leaders jumped $4 million between 2015 and 2016. So when they say that students should have to pay more, I don't buy it.
Building sound budgets isn't easy. Leaders need to step up and make tough decisions, especially when money is tight. But students shouldn't have to pay more for school because politicians have made bad budget decisions. And we can't and won't ask students and families to pay more so that university administrators can get raises and bonuses that they haven’t earned
The University System has been broken for too long. We need to fix it. We just appointed three new members of the Board of Curators who are going to be budget hawks. I spoke to the new president of the UM System, Dr. Mun Choi, this morning, and I believe he's committed to greater accountability and producing excellent results.
Tomorrow, I'm meeting with the heads of several major universities across our state, and I will deliver a clear message:
1. Colleges and universities are important to our state's future.
2. We need to cut waste from that system, just like every other area of government.
3. We want excellence in our colleges and universities, and we're willing to invest in it.
4. We won't balance budgets on the backs of our students.
When I was a Navy SEAL officer, the leaders ate last. Our people ate first. That's what leaders do. They put their people ahead of themselves. That means when budgets are tight, leaders make sacrifices, not students and families. That's what the people expect us to do, and that’s what I’m fighting for.