Allysia Finley in WSJ

‘We just know for a fact that if you can always get more money, you will look to the money rather than to alternative spending practices,” California Gov. Jerry Brown explained two years ago in an interview with University of California students. This inadvertent moment of candor occurred while the governor was campaigning for a giant tax hike (Prop. 30) that has now put him in a jam.

To get out the college vote for the 2012 tax initiative, Mr. Brown threatened to slash state funding for the University of California’s 10 campuses if his referendum failed. The UC Board of Regents warned that the cuts would compel them to jack up tuition by $2,400—about 20%—at midyear. The tax hike sailed through in no small part because of this double-teaming.

Yet now the governor’s former UC allies are unhappy with their sliver of the revenue spoils. So they’ve revived the tuition-increase threat, hoping to extract more tax dollars from the state. Prodded by UC President Janet Napolitano, the regents on Thursday voted to raise tuition by up to 5% annually for the next five years if the state doesn’t pony up more cash.

All this has politicians and the regents quarreling like a married couple that just won the lottery. Herein is a parable in the conflicting values and priorities of liberal governance.

In last year’s budget, Mr. Brown agreed to boost state funding for the UC schools by 4% to 5% annually in return for a four-year tuition freeze. The governor also proposed a host of reforms intended to make the state universities more efficient, including increasing online education, requiring professors to teach more classes and cutting pay for administrators.

“I’ve got a whole book showing how the university is spending money it doesn’t have to,” the governor said in 2013. “Certain kinds of research, sports, gardeners, a lot of things.”

After university executives and professors squawked—they claimed that Mr. Brown was nosing around where he had no business—the governor backed off the reforms and increased the UC budget allowance as promised. While Mr. Brown has offered the schools a fillip of $120 million more for 2015, Ms. Napolitano claims that they need and are entitled to even more.

Entitled is the word. Educrat pigs gorging at the public trough.

According to university budget documents, the UCs’ spending from “core funds”—principally, tuition and state funding—has increased by about $1.7 billion since 2009. Yet the regents claim that more money is needed to fund “high-priority investments”—namely, employee pay and benefits.

A PowerPoint presentation on the budget by the regents shows that the UCs this year needed to spend an additional $73 million on pensions, $30 million on faculty bonuses, $24 million on health benefits and $16 million on collectively bargained pay increases. The regents project that they will require $250 million more next year to finance increased compensation and benefit costs.

Ms. Napolitano says that the UCs have cut their budgets to the bone, yet her own office includes nearly 2,000 employees—a quarter of whom make six-figure salaries. An associate vice president of federal government relations earns $273,375 a year, plus $55,857 in retirement and health benefits, according to the state controller’s office. Thirty professors at UC Santa Cruz rake in more than $200,000 in pay, and most faculty can retire at 60 and receive a pension equal to 75% of their final salary. More than 2,100 retirees in the university retirement system collected six-figure pensions in 2011.

Meanwhile, students and their parents struggle to pay for college. The Feds enable it all by making easy loans, hobbling graduates with hobbling debt.

Janet Napalitano, who had no educrat experience, gets:

  • $570,000 annual salary
  • $8916 annually for car expenses (that’s $743/month so she can ride in style)
  • $9,950 a month for housing