Topeka Kansas Board of Regents members have expressed consternation over a proposal by a group of House Republicans that would cut the salaries of top researchers at higher education institutions by 7.5 percent.
“The answer to our economic problems is getting intellectually smart people,” said Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer of Overland Park. “It is going to be difficult in doing that if we punish them for doing something well.”
The proposal “defies logic,” said Vice Chairman Ed McKechnie of Arcadia.
The Legislature is working on a budget rescission bill for the current fiscal year, and faces an estimated $492 million revenue shortfall in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee proposed a 7.5 percent pay cut to state employees and elected officials.
But they pulled back after a public outcry and limited the 7.5 percent to legislators, state officers, judges and regents employees making more than $100,000 per year. That was approved by the full House. The Senate budget plan does not apply the pay cut to regents employees.
Critics of the House plan say cutting the pay of top researchers will cause them to look elsewhere or be lured by better paying jobs.
Regents’ unhappiness with the House plan was expressed last week as they were approving continuation of a regents distinguished professorship and stipend for Dr. Blake Peterson at Kansas University Medical Center.
Peterson is a distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry and works on ongoing innovations in cancer vaccines and therapies for neurodegenerative disorders.
He has received grants of nearly $3 million, according to the regents.
Sherrer said reducing the salaries of people like Peterson would only hurt Kansas in the long run. The proposed pay cut would apply to approximately 1,500 employees at regents universities.