What Sen. Bonoff said about the MnSCU end to bonuses

When I asked Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) earlier this week for his thoughts MnSCU trustees' recent elimination of performance-based executive bonuses, I was surprised he called it a "positive move" -- because he's actually in favor of performance pay.

Soon afterward, I asked Chairwoman Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) for her thoughts.

I got a similar reaction:

"I think they're being responsive. I think the fact that it's in both the House and Senate bills shows that we legislators are responding as well to our public, that we want our state dollars going to (students as much) as possible."

Yet when I asked her what she thought about performance bonuses, Bonoff said she, too, prefers a performance-based system:

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

"I think we ought to differentiate payment based on results."

So with that in mind, was eliminating bonuses really the right thing or does it run counter to a performance-based incentive strategy?

Bonoff said she was still getting the facts:

"It looks to me like the bonuses seemed to be large, perhaps in response to not providing the kind of salary increases that ... I don't know. All I can tell you is that I'm for performance-based pay. And that doesn't have to be in the form of bonuses. That should be an entire compensation package."

She said she would bring up the bonuses at an upcoming meeting with MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.

So if the MnSCU bonus system does turn out to be performance-based, how would Bonoff then approach the anti-bonus language in the Senate?

She replied:

"I would go back at it next year."

So Miller and Bonoff say they need full details about MnSCU's bonus system before they can really say how they feel about it.

MnSCU spokesman Doug Anderson sent me an email yesterday in which he stressed the system's focus on merit:

Under Performance Pay, a portion of total compensation is put at risk. These individuals could only earn their total compensation if they achieved certain pre-determined performance targets.

It's unclear how many lawmakers know that.