Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to raise health insurance premiums for state workers is now officially a campaign issue -- for Sen. John Courson.
The president pro tempore of the state Senate on Thursday called for the Budget and Control Board to “convene immediately” and reverse its decision to raise the rates. Last month, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly not to raise the rates. But the Budget and Control Board, at Haley’s request, raised them anyway.
Courson and other Republican leaders -- including House Speaker Bobby Harrell -- said the issue was sure to land the state in court. But so far, lawmakers have left the suing up to state workers. No one has suggested the legislature take the Budget and Control Board to court.
“I am encouraging everyone I talk to, including the state employees association and others, to file legal action,” Sen. Darrel Jackson, D-Richland, said Thursday.
Friday, Robert Rikard -- the Democratic challenger to Courson in Senate district 20 -- called on lawmakers to file their own lawsuit.
“Senator Courson is right to express outrage at this decision by this unelected administrative board,” Rikard said in a news release. “However, the time for talking is over. State workers, who themselves are taxpayers, need quick action from their leaders on this issue. To simply hold a press conference is not enough and shows a lack of leadership.”
The Budget and Control Board includes two state lawmakers -- Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Brian White, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Both of them voted not to raise the health insurance rates. The board, like the state legislature, is paid for with taxpayer money.
“A taxpayer-funded lawsuit against a taxpayer-funded entity? Brilliant idea, Mr. Rikard,” Adam Fogle, a political consultant who is helping with Courson’s campaign, posted on Twitter following Rikard’s news release.