Gov. Jim Gibbons blasted back Wednesday at last week's attack by Chancellor Jim Rogers, suggesting the university system cut back some of the more than 1,300 hundred employees making more than $100,000 a year.
Rogers' Aug. 13 letter accused Gibbons of callously trying to eliminate all state funding for social programs in Nevada.
"I now believe that while millions of Nevadans are suffering with a weakening economy, you are silently pleased with this singular opportunity to use this misery as an excuse to gut education and health and human services without the need for any public policy debate for a position that you could not hope to defend," Rogers said.
Gibbons, in a four-page response issued Wednesday, repeated his absolute opposition to raising taxes. And to Rogers' charge that further cuts will cripple the university system, he said: "When examined as a whole, I find it impossible to believe that there is simply no way to reduce spending within the system of higher education."
He spelled out where he thinks those cuts can be made: "The system of higher education currently employs 1,328 people who are paid $100,000 or more annually with part of that salary coming from state general funds."
He pointed out that only doctors, dentists and "any employee of the Nevada System of Higher Education" are exempt from the mandate that state workers can't be paid more than 95 percent of what the governor makes. He added: "Perhaps it's time to re-examine that exception or at least require these positions to go before the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee for approval."
Gibbons repeated his claim that he is a strong advocate for higher education and will, when the economy improves, direct more money toward education. He said in the current biennium, he is concerned the Board of Regents intends to "ignore the reality of the economic situation in Nevada."
"The system of higher education needs to either plan for reduced spending or identify a realistic funding mechanism that will allow the increased spending that you support," he concluded.
Of the top 100 positions listed as "making six figures," more than two-thirds are in the medical and dental schools.
The top 452 of those positions all make more than the governor, who receives $140,000 a year.
The highest paid university system employee is Ole Thienhaus, dean of the medical school, who receives $1.4 million a year in compensation not counting health and retirement benefits. But only 15 percent of that salary is from the state's general fund.
Next highest is the No. 2 individual at the medical school, who receives $480,364 a year.
Conspicuously high on the list are Chris Ault, UNR football coach, and Mark Fox, basketball coach at UNR, who are at No. 7 and No. 23 on the list and paid $378,942 and 286,840 respectively. They are the top paid system employees outside the medical school.
The next two highest paid in the system outside the medical school are the presidents of the two university campuses. Reno's Milt Glick is No. 26 on the list at $275,808. David Ashley, his counterpart at UNLV, is 34th at $258,819.
The director of health sciences at UNLV is 452nd on the list " the lowest position which still receives more per year than Gibbons " at $140,026.
And 633 of those people are paid more than the top state of Nevada agency directors who each receive $127,721 a year. Many of those positions are assistant professors in various departments.
System spokesman Vice Chancellor Dan Klaich could not be reached for comment.
- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.