Mumbling Retreat

Mar 16, 2009

The Suncoast News–March 14, 2009

The Legislature has another major headache beside a revenue shortfall on its hands during its 2009 regular session. Lawmakers are coming to more fully understand the enormity of the financial hole they and Gov. Charlie Crist have been digging for Florida taxpayers as they have tried to “protect” them from rate increases from “greedy” insurance companies.

The private insurers said they needed higher rates in Florida because they faced huge claims payouts if a major hurricane hits the state. Crist and many lawmakers, however, scoffed. The insurance companies, they said, were making big profits on the backs of Floridians while crying poor.

While micromanaging the Florida property insurance market, the folks in Tallahassee have turned Citizens Property Insurance, usually referred to as the “state-backed insurer of last resort,” into the insurer of sole resort for people in many parts of Florida, including most of Pinellas County and western Pasco. The Legislature has frozen Citizens’ rates, so the state would have to find $18 billion or so to help Citizens pay claims after a major hurricane, according to current estimates.

Two weeks into this year’s legislative session and with another hurricane season looming, lawmakers have yet to come up with a solution to this dilemma. Washington is not offering to take this financial burden off their hands, so Crist and lawmakers are beginning to acknowledge, under their breath, they may have to give Citizens the rate increase they said the private insurers didn’t need – as we always knew they would.