Time to Rethink Government in South Carolina
By Paul Gable
The vote last week by the state Budget and Control Board to slightly increase out of pocket contributions for health insurance premiums of local and state public agency employees has raised interesting questions about government in South Carolina.
The General Assembly included $20.5 million in the FY 2013 state budget to pay for health insurance premium increases for the 234,363 state and local public agency employees covered by the state health insurance plan.
The B&CB voted to have the employees covered by the plan participate in the premium increases to the tune of a $7.25 per month. Now some state legislators are crying foul on the B&CB saying the agency acted illegally.
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom said, during board debate before the vote, the modest premium increase for employees was a question of fairness.
Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, responded with the most telling quote in the debate, “It’s too late for fairness, the General Assembly has spoken,” said Leatherman.
Leatherman’s quote not only perfectly describes the health insurance premium increase problem in particular, but also the overall problem with government in the state in general – ‘It’s too late for fairness, the General Assembly has spoken.’
The 1895 S.C. Constitution, a reaction to the problems of Reconstruction, vested much too much power in legislative branch of state government. In terms of actual influence over the day to day operations of state government, Leatherman wields more power in Columbia, as Senate Finance Committee chairman, than the three board members who voted for the increase, Eckstrom, Gov. Nikki Haley and Treasurer Curtis Loftis, all statewide elected officials.
Will a $7.25 per month increase in health insurance premiums for government and other state and local agency employees bring a showdown in Columbia? Probably not.
But, it does demonstrate major problems in the way the state is run. Why are over 234,000 people covered by a state government administered health insurance plan, one whose costs are paid mainly by taxes on the general public?
Why, in a state where 30 percent of the working population has no health insurance, do those workers covered by the state plan react so strongly when asked to pay an additional $87 per year for their health insurance?
Why do so many of the employees covered by the state plan work for quasi-governmental state and local agencies who have little to no oversight by elected officials?
I keep hearing what a solid, conservative state South Carolina is while I keep watching big spending, out of control big government operating at the state and local level all on the backs of taxpaying citizens.
It’s past time for a general government overhaul in South Carolina, one that brings governmental scope and spending under control, out in the open and subject to periodic review by the voters of the state.