More South Carolina state workers are expected to join a University of South Carolina professor’s lawsuit charging that Gov. Nikki Haley and the Budget & Control Board lacked the authority to make state employees pay for an increase in their health insurance premium. The board’s move defied state lawmakers’ budget agreement, and Dr. Thomas A. Bryson’s lawsuit asks a judge to determine who has the final authority.
Many state employees are criticizing Gov. Haley and other leaders for trying to balance the state’s budget on the backs of its workers, even as lawmakers spend millions in taxpayer money on things like defending a voter ID law that doesn’t actually prevent voter fraud.
“As a state government employee of five years, I finally got my first cost of living increase and only raise in my current career,” one state employee wrote. “A week later, [the premium increase] was announced and immediately took it away. If I have the numbers correct, the CoL increase was 3%, and the increase in taxes taken out is increased over time to 2.5%.”
Gov. Haley has argued that state employees must “pay their fair share” of the premium increase, rhetoric which would immediately be labeled socialistic if it had come from a Democrat. Many South Carolinians agree with the policy behind the decision, arguing that taxpayers shouldn’t pay to insure people with “cushy” state jobs… Though it’s unclear how going five years without a raise counts as “cushy.”
State lawmakers have criticized Haley’s move, comparing it to a back-door budget veto.
Earlier this year, Haley’s proposed state workers and government evenly split any increase in the cost of health insurance. Later, when lawmakers instead decided to have state government pay for all that increase, Haley could have vetoed that money.
“The governor had every opportunity to veto that line item and chose not to do it,” said Roger Smith, executive director of the S.C. Education Association, which represents teachers.
Haley’s office argues if the first-term Republican governor from Lexington had vetoed the health insurance money and lawmakers had sustained that veto, state workers would have been forced to pay 100 percent of their higher insurance costs.
“The governor believes that the cost should be shared,” Godfrey said. “That cost share was impossible in the veto process – her only options were to place the full cost on one side or the other, which … was not her intention.”
In other words, Gov. Haley and the Budget & Control Board knew lawmakers would reject the health premium increase… so they just went around the General Assembly altogether.
Even dyed-in-the-wool Republicans are beginning to turn on the governor, as a PPR reader reported this week:
My Republican in-laws are always very firm in their political beliefs, but talking with them recently has turned into a stark lesson of two people who have severe buyer’s remorse.
My mother-in-law in particular isn’t happy with the increase since she works for the state, and neither is my father-in-law. During a visit on Sunday, they began quoting a letter in the newspaper arguing that Haley makes Mark Sanford look good in comparison.
It’s just another instance of my blood-red Republican in-laws turning against a governor they’d once supported. In fact, a previous discussion revealed something just surprising. We were talking about Haley removing Darla Moore from the USC Board of Trustees, when my mother-in-law dropped a bomb:
“I’m thinking twice about voting for her again.”
The mention of the Darla Moore incident, which happened just a few months into Gov. Haley’s term in office, indicates that this cooling attitude toward the governor has been a long time coming. As reported by the Free Times’ Corey Hutchins, some conservatives believe Gov. Haley abandoned her tea party platform almost as soon as taking office:
One early litmus test was Haley’s failure to take a position on a bipartisan legislative proposal to give a massive tax break to Amazon so the company could build a distribution center in Lexington County. Haley allowed the tax break to become law without her signature.
The move made libertarians and tea party types howl about the government picking winners and losers in the marketplace.
Her base eroded further when it came to some of her own agenda items. In early March of this year, several grassroots limited-government and tea party groups held a news conference outside Haley’s office at the State House. … They criticized the governor for not being serious about government restructuring, something she’d campaigned on heavily.
Gov. Haley’s upcoming speech at the Republican National Convention gives her a chance to increase her national profile even further, cementing her reputation as one of the GOP’s biggest rising stars. But that won’t help much when back home with her own base and constituents, she’s less popular than hurricane season!