Groups want S.C. Supreme Court to rule on benefits suit
COLUMBIA — Sixty-four-year-old Francis Jackson says every little bit counts.
That’s why the state retiree from Florence County, who worked for three decades at the S.C. Department of Social Services, said she was so dismayed by a Gov. Nikki Haley-led panel’s move to raise health insurance costs for public workers and retirees.
“I need every penny I can get,” Jackson said Monday.
Retirees, such as Jackson, and state workers will pay about $7 extra each month starting Jan. 1 if the S.C. Budget and Control Board’s vote earlier this month to increase state workers’ insurance premiums by 4.6 percent holds up.
Jackson joined groups representing state employees and teachers gathered Monday to protest the panel’s 3-2 vote and to call on the S.C. Supreme Court to take up a joint lawsuit seeking to overturn the move.
The groups argue the panel did not have the constitutional authority to vote to raise insurance costs after the Legislature this year set aside $20.6 million to cover the spike in premiums.
“Based upon her actions and public comments, we can only conclude that Governor Haley used her position on the Budget and Control Board to advance her political agenda at the expense of public employees,” said Jackie Hicks, president of the South Carolina Education Association.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the accusation is off base.
“All we’ve asked is that state employees share in the cost of their health insurance spike with the taxpayers of this state — there’s nothing unreasonable, unwarranted, or political about it,” he said.
Godfrey said the board was within its authority when it set rates on insurance costs.
“We have every intention of defending and winning this case,” he said.