South Carolina teachers, public employees may pay higher insurance premiums

(Columbia, WACH)-Life may get a little tougher for teachers and other public employees in the Palmetto State.

Last week, the state's Budget and Control Board led by Governor Nikki Haley, voted 3-2 in favor of increasing health insurance premiums for public employees; even though legislators said enough money was in the budget to avoid that.

On Monday, the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA) and the South Carolina State Employees Association (SCSEA) defended thousands of current and retired employees with the help of Lexington Senator Jake Knotts. They are all supporting a lawsuit filed by officials from both agencies.

The board's decision surprised retired teachers like Rebecca Rochester.

"We've all lost money. It is going to cost us more to continue every month to have insurance. Many of them make very little. But they stay employed cause they need the insurance."

Governor Haley stands by her decision.

"Our state employees got a raise this year. They had an increase in their health benefits. All I asked was to split that with their employer. The employer is the taxpayer. Find anyone in the private sector that has health insurance as good as a state employee, that got a pay raise this year, that can afford to pay for their neighbor's health insurance increase."

But Senator Knotts said Haley did not give employees a chance to voice their concerns.

"She did not like what we did in the General Assembly concerning state employees. She should have vetoed it. It would have been a debate. The employees would have had their say."

Rochester hopes the distraction of a lawsuit will not affect current teachers trying to educate students.

"That gives you some assurance so now you can spend your time on what you really love; and that is helping those students grow."

Governor Haley, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, and State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom voted in favor of the increase. They have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit before it heads to the South Carolina Supreme Court.