By Paul Gable
Two months after the S.C. General Assembly put the entire increase in health insurance premiums for state and local government workers on the backs of South Carolina taxpayers, the S.C. Budget and Control Board voted 3-2 to split the increase between government employees and taxpayers.
Gov. Nikki Haley, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and Treasurer Curtis Loftis voted in favor of the split. The B&CB’s two lawmakers, Sen. Hugh Leatherman and Rep. Brian White, voted against it.
The vote of the B&CB will have the effect of increasing government employee premiums approximately $7.25 per month while saving taxpayers approximately $5.8 million.
State law requires increases in premiums to be split between employees and employers. Employers, in this case, are state and local governments who pay their portion of premiums out of tax revenue. The board voted to follow state law while the General Assembly ignored it during the budget process.
“Where else in our society can consumers expect not to pay for what they consume?” asked Eckstrom. “It’s a matter of fairness (to have employees share in the premium increases).”
In a state where approximately 30 percent of the working population does not have health insurance, it goes way beyond fairness. Should the taxes of these hardworking citizens be used to pay for health insurance premiums for government workers when they can’t afford health insurance for themselves?
In other state benefit news, Haley announced three appointments to the South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Authority (PEBA). Established as a part of pension reform legislation signed into law earlier this year, PEBA will meet at least monthly and administer the state retirement systems and the employee insurance program.
Haley’s appointments are:
Arthur M. (Art) Bjontegard, Jr.: Mr. Bjontegard is former president of South Carolina National Bank, the state’s largest bank holding company, and he previously headed its pension, investment, and bond departments. Additionally, Mr. Bjontegard has served on the National Episcopal Church’s audit committee, the investment panel of the S.C. Retirement Systems and the investment committee of Palmetto Health System.
Cynthia A. (Cindy) Hartley: With over 40 years of private-sector experience in human resources, Ms. Hartley retired from Sonoco, where she was Senior Vice President for Human Resources. She also chaired the Sustainability Committee for Sonoco, which was selected to join the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. With an MBA from the University of Chicago, Ms. Hartley also serves on the board of S.C. Bank and Trust.
Steve A. Matthews: Mr. Matthews, a respected attorney with significant government and corporate finance experience and a Yale Law School graduate, is a shareholder and past managing director of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd. Based in the firm’s Columbia office, he is the only South Carolina lawyer to serve as a founder of the American College of Bond Counsel and the first South Carolina lawyer to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Bond Lawyers.
The governor, along with the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, recently appointed Bill Blume as PEBA’s Executive Director.