SENATE LEADER BRISTLES AT “OLD GUARD” SLIGHT FROM NIKKI HALEY
Powerful S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman stormed out of a contentious meeting of state fiscal leaders this week. The panel he abruptly departed included governor Nikki Haley, who failed last week in her bid to defeat Leatherman at the polls.
Leatherman left a meeting of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SFAA) on Wednesday – a group which had gathered to (among other things) address the state’s looming pension fund debacle.
We addressed that saga extensively in this post.
The meeting began acrimoniously when Haley offered her signature “It’s a great day in South Carolina” greeting.
This invocation drew a rebuke from S.C. comptroller general Richard Eckstrom, who noted that a political action committee supporting Haley had adopted the “Great Day in South Carolina” name. Accordingly, Eckstrom claimed, the greeting could be considered “offensive” to some of the politicians in the room.
Things went downhill from there. When the meeting eventually arrived at a discussion of the pension fund, Haley sought to frame the issue as a dispute between the “old guard” (motioning to Leatherman) and the “new guard” (motioning to state treasurer Curtis Loftis).
Is that a fair view? Yes, although Haley’s characterization completely ignores the fact that she and Leatherman’s appointees on the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission (SCRSIC) have voted in lockstep on this issue.
With disastrous consequences …
Under the leadership of Reynolds Williams (Leatherman’s appointee) and Ed Giobbe (Haley’s appointee), the state’s pension fund has shed nearly $3 billion of its value over the last two years. The fund’s debt has also soared from $13 billion to $22 billion.
Haley is every bit as “old guard” on this issue as Leatherman, in other words – and her allegiance to the status quo is about to cost taxpayers an estimated $500-600 million a year to fix.
Anyway, Leatherman took offense to the characterization.
“He was very unhappy,” one attendee at the meeting told us. “He mumbled something – then he just got up and left.”
Leatherman missed all of the board’s votes on the pension fund – although that probably won’t hurt him in light of how hugely unpopular these tallies are likely to be.
Seriously: State employees currently set to receive a 3.5 percent raise in the massive FY 2016-17 state budget must now cough up bigger chunks of their salary to prop up the retirement fund.
Same with taxpayers.
It’s a mess … one Leatherman and Haley are directly responsible for.