The first reaction to news that many of the Minnesota State College and Universities' leaders recently received a total of $287,500 in performance bonuses was: "What in the world was the MnSCU board thinking?"
During a challenging economic period when pay freezes or reductions are commonplace for private and public employees, spending substantial dollars on bonuses is a classic example of a government agency being tone deaf.
It was heartening, however, to see Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad donate his $12,000 bonus back to benefit CLC students and staff. Other top administrators have followed suit.
The administrators' eligibility for pay bonuses was part of 2008 contracts, that didn't include a base pay increase.
As employees in both the private and public sectors are learning, the current economic crisis dictates that it's not business as usual these days. Practices that may have well been acceptable in better times are just not acceptable today. No amount of explanation or rationalization by the MnSCU Board of Trustees can bring any solace to lower paid employees who are struggling to make ends meet.
Policy-makers at all levels of government have to realize that they must hold the line on salaries and expenses to the best of their ability until the economy rebounds. To ignore that reality or to hope that bonuses and pay raises might go unnoticed is to invite the wrath of a justifiably distressed public.
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