tampabay.com

Young eyes future at SPC

He's lobbied for funding for a government institute. The SPC president says he'd be perfect to lead it.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO and BILL ADAIR
Published May 16, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - The new government institute at St. Petersburg College is poised to receive $5-million in state money thanks to a lobbying effort by Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

It will be named the C.W. Bill Young Government Institute, and Carl Kuttler, the college president, says he has the perfect candidate to run the place: Young himself.

Despite the state's tightest budget year on record, the college is likely to get the state investment because Young personally requested the money from Gov. Charlie Crist. Kuttler says he hopes Young, 76, will run it once he retires from Congress.

"Will he be dean? That's up to him, but that would be a very desirable goal of the college," Kuttler said.

Crist is currently considering the state budget and has expressed his support for funding the institute. According to a college proposal, the institute would provide research and policy training, host community forums, and contribute to civics education in schools, as well as train state legislative staffers and future government officials, like ambassadors. Kuttler said he expects to get the remaining $2.5-million next year to complete the institute's funding.

The college's Web site suggests a salary for the institute's dean as high as $182,000, which is the highest pay grade listed. Teachers with Ph.D.s at the college top out around $90,000. However, Kuttler dismissed the importance of the dean salary figure, because the job doesn't exist yet.

Young, who earns $165,200 as a member of Congress, has not said when he will retire from the House or what he will do next. He said he has no agreement with Kuttler about his role and won't commit to anything more than a "leadership position" at the institute.

"If and when I ever retire, I would like to continue to encourage other people - students or young or old - to be involved in government and politics," Young said. "I think I can offer a lot of good advice."

When asked about the possibility of being paid more than $180,000 by an institute he asked state officials to fund, he compared the figure to the lobbying world, which pays far more.

"It's amazing how much money is available out there if you want to get into the lobbying business," said Young, who has previously turned down lobbying offers.

Young's St. Petersburg-based congressional staff has moved into offices at the college, but he characterized the arrangement as a separate deal, negotiated with an independent assessor to make sure the rent was fair.

Kuttler said that when Young retires, "the institute can pick up the cost of the rent."

Young said all his congressional archives, 50 years worth of papers, will be housed at the institute. He has begun sending truckloads of boxed archives to the school.

"We agreed many years ago that, when the time came, the college would be the depository for all the materials," said Young, who wants the documents available to students rather than just warehoused.

As a longtime member and chairman of a major House appropriations committee, Young has steered millions toward Tampa Bay area colleges and universities, especially St. Petersburg College. Some of its federally funded projects include $5-million toward construction of the college's EpiCenter in Largo, $1-million to train students in museum services and $800, 000 toward a center on cybersecurity education. The college has a scholarship named after the congressman.

Kuttler said Young has not steered any federal dollars toward the C.W. Bill Young Government Institute.

Both Kuttler and Young compared the C.W. Bill Young Institute with the Bob Graham centers at University of Florida and the University of Miami, in that they all aim to get students interested in government.

Graham raises public and private funds for the centers, but he draws no salary from them, said Tony Rosenbaum, director of the Graham Center for Public Service at UF in Gainesville.

Common Cause's Ben Wilcox said it's fairly common for lawmakers to use their position to help lay the groundwork for their retirement plans.

"You would hope such funding would be based upon some kind of real determination of need, rather than a lawmaker looking for a position to retire in," Wilcox said.