Aug. 08--State employees will pay more for their health insurance next year -- despite the fact that lawmakers said they would not have to.
The state Budget and Control Board -- at the request of Gov. Nikki Haley -- voted 3-2 on Wednesday to split the increase in state health insurance premiums equally between taxpayers and employees. Taxpayers will pay 4.6 percent more, and state workers will pay 4.6 percent more. It's unclear what the dollar amount increase will be for the average state worker.
Last month, however, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to pay for those increases using taxpayer money only. That way, state workers would not have to pay for an increase.
However, lawmakers passed a new retirement law which requires any increases to be shared equally between taxpayers and employees. Lawmakers intended that law to govern changes to retirement contributions. But Haley argued it also applies to health insurance premiums -- and won.
Sen. Hugh Leatherman and Rep. Brian White -- the General Assembly's chief budget writers -- argued that Haley was trying to undermine the will of the state legislature, which voted to pay for the increases using taxpayer money.
"Just because we have the money doesn't mean we have to spend it," Haley said.
Voting with Haley were state Treasurer Curtis Loftis and state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom. Leatherman, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and White, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, voted against it.
"I would never vote to undo what the General Assembly did," Leatherman said. "I don't think we have the authority."
White said he agrees that any increases should be shared equally between taxpayers and employees, but said he voted to support the collective will of the legislature.
The state budget includes a 3 percent raise for all state workers, a 2 percent raise for teachers and a 5 percent raise for certain state law enforcement officers. Now some of that increase will have to go toward paying for health insurance. And state workers will also have to pay 1.5 percent more to the state retirement fund.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.
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