Aug. 14--A USC chemistry professor has sued the State Budget and Control Board for raising health insurance premiums for state workers.
Thomas A. Bryson, director of graduate studies for the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at the University of South Carolina, has filed a class action lawsuit in Richland County, according to court documents.
The health insurance increases are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Bryson is asking the court to stop those increases.
The cost of health insurance for state workers goes up every year. Those increases are usually shared between employees and state government. Last month, state lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to use taxpayer money to pay 100 percent of the increase so state employees would not have to.
But last week, the State Budget and Control Board -- at the request of Gov. Nikki Haley -- raised the rates anyway. The move would save the state $5.8 million, but would cost the average state employee an extra $7.24 per month.
Bryson argues that the State Budget and Control Board did not have the authority to raise the health insurance premiums because the state legislature fully funded the entire increase. But Gov. Nikki Haley, writing in an op-ed published in Tuesday's editions of The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News, disagreed.
"While the legislature did allocate enough taxpayer money to allow the state to cover the entire cost of the increase, nowhere did they require that money to be spent," she said.
Haley is right. Lawmakers did not pass a temporary law -- called a budget proviso -- that required the money to be spent. But Michael Medlock, Bryson's attorney, says lawmakers don't have to pass a proviso for every dollar in the state budget.
"There is not a proviso that sets (the governor's) salary, but she knows what she is getting," Bryson said.
Meanwhile, two other state employee groups -- the South Carolina State Employee Association and the South Carolina Education Association -- are meeting with their attorneys Tuesday afternoon to discuss filing a lawsuit, possibly on Wednesday. But while Bryson filed a lawsuit in state circuit court, the state employee groups are planning on asking the State Supreme Court to rule directly.
Medlock said he, too, plans to ask the Supreme Court to rule.
Below is a copy of the lawsuit
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.
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