Salary plan at stem cell institute is criticized
Governor cites state deficit in opposing leaders' pay
By Terri Somers
10:10 a.m. December 6, 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has expressed “deep concern” about the state stem cell institute's plans to set the salaries for the chairman and vice chairman of its board, two positions for which no one has accepted pay in three years.

With the state facing a possible $28 billion deficit, Schwarzenegger sent a letter Thursday to the stem cell institute's board urging it “to ensure that compensation for these positions is offered only if and to the extent absolutely necessary to implement its mission.”

Setting a salary for the chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is on the agenda for its next board meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Irvine.

Meanwhile, the vice-chairman job is open, and the top state officials will submit nominees for the post. Reportedly, Schwarzenegger will nominate a candidate who does not need to take a salary, while the lieutenant governor, treasurer and controller are expected to nominate a candidate who would need a salary, said Robert Klein, chairman of the state stem cell institute.

Klein and Edward Penhoet, the institute's former vice chairman, have declined salaries since the institute's formation three years ago.

Klein, who is chief executive of a financing company that funds affordable apartment developments and market-rate projects, said market conditions dictate that he can no longer afford to donate his time to the state.

“For the first three years, I wanted to make certain that all of our scarce initial funds were going for hiring critical staff and getting grants out and making certain we got past right-wing litigation that tried to stop this agency,” Klein said.

He said he also wanted to ensure that the state first repaid loans from philanthropists that funded the institute while it fought the legal challenges.

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