’We never fire anybody. We never reprimand anybody. We never demote anybody. We always promote the sons-of- bitches that kick us in the ass.’ ~ Richard M. Nixon
By Paul Gable
It’s great to talk about holding the line on taxes, cutting government spending and protecting taxpayer dollars but the real roadblock to fiscally responsible government is the giant bureaucracy built up over the last several decades.
A great example is the current response from government workers being asked to pay a minimal increase in their taxpayer funded healthcare costs.
Make us pay $7.24 per month more in premiums for our health insurance? “No way,” state workers said and immediately sued state government.
It all started when the S.C. General Assembly found itself flush with cash from extra revenue last year. A proposed rise in premiums for the state healthcare plan was allotted an additional $20 million of this excess revenue to pay for the increase. Under this scenario, government revenues would have covered the entire cost of the increase.
Gov. Nikki Haley and the S.C. Budget and Control Board voted to have state workers share in the increased premiums.
The S.C. State Employees Association and S.C. Education Association immediately sued, claiming the B&CB overstepped its authority.
The lawsuit, which went directly to the S.C. Supreme Court, is couched in Constitutional terms over the dominance of the General Assembly in state government and who has final say on government spending.
What it is really about, in my opinion, is the selfishness of the bureaucracy.
Government workers in general, and especially in the last few years of economic recession, have experienced good paying, safe jobs with excellent benefits relative to workers in the private sector. They have a good health insurance plan and excellent retirement plan, mostly funded with public money.
How many of the state’s citizens working in the private sector can say the same? Yet, it’s from this same private sector, where pay, benefits and job security are generally lacking today, that most of the funding for the state employees’ pay and benefits come.
The entire $20 million budgeted to pay for increased premiums in state health insurance plan, as well as the remainder of the $1.4 billion in excess revenue the state budget realized, should have been returned to taxpayers. The General Assembly passed a balanced budget without the excess revenue before the year began.
But no, we can’t have that. If the state realizes excess revenue, the unwritten law is it must be spent by, and used to benefit wherever possible, the government and the bureaucracy that runs it. That’s called wastefulness, but it’s also called job security.
The S.C. Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on the case for January 23, 2013. Expect the bureaucracy to prevail at the expense of the taxpayer again.