University president offers to work for $1 a year

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton says he'll work for $1 if the Legislature gives the university another $10 million next year.

Hamilton made the offer after getting into an argument this week with Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, who was complaining that Hamilton made too much money.

''My statement to him very simply was this: If that is standing in the way of funding the university, I will work for a dollar next year and be proud of it,'' Hamilton said.

Cowdery said Friday he'll support whatever level of university funding the Senate Finance Committee recommends. He is not a member of the committee.

''I have always supported the university funding and I have always thought that the administration costs were out of line, way high,'' Cowdery said.

The university is lobbying the Legislature to provide the $10.3 million increase that Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski proposed in his budget. The budget that passed the House this week does not contain the increase.

The Senate Finance Committee will take up the university budget next week. If it comes up with a different number than the House did, the difference will be settled in a conference committee.

Cowdery has been passing out information on pay for Hamilton and other university administrators, comparing their salaries to that of other state officials.

Hamilton's base salary of $250,000 along with a $9,300 vehicle allowance and the $25,000 bonus he received last year far exceeds that of many other state officials. The governor makes $81,648.

Hamilton said he understands the ''sticker shock'' associated with his pay, but said it is lower than the $321,000 national average for state universities.

But he said he doesn't want that to be an excuse not to fund the university, which he calls a key ''instrument of economic development,'' so he's willing to forego the pay.

The budget that passed the House would have the effect of reducing the UA budget by $12 million after accounting for fixed costs and inflation, Hamilton said earlier this week.

Hamilton, who is a retired Army general, would continue to receive his military retirement income if he gave up his salary. He also has a house provided by the University of Alaska Foundation.

''I'd be fine and I'd be proud as I could possibly be if that sacrifice made a difference to my university,'' Hamilton said.

Cowdery also tangled with some university students and faculty recently over a resolution supporting troops in Iraq, which some students complained supported not just the troops, but the war.

Cowdery, who supported the troops resolution, challenged its opponents to send him a list of students, faculty and alumni they said opposed the war. He noted some of those university employees were in Juneau asking for more money in their budget.

Those testifying took that as a threat intended to silence their dissent. Cowdery later insisted it was not.

Senate Majority Leader Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, said neither Cowdery's spat with Hamilton nor his argument with students over the war resolution will have any effect on the Finance Committee's discussion of the budget.

But Stevens said he does not think Hamilton's pay is at risk. Getting $10 million more for the university is unlikely in a year when nearly every other budget is being cut, he said.

''To me, in times like this, flat funding is a victory,'' Stevens said. ''Positive funding is a (conquest), and I just don't think anybody has the capability of conquering this budget right now.''

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