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Protect residents, nonprofits and others from ‘irrational’ storm tax

Saturday, March 19, 2011 | The Tampa Tribune | By: Manley Fuller

This legislative session we are once again faced with one of the state’s most pressing issues — Florida’s property insurance crisis.

In light of our extreme vulnerability to catastrophic storm losses, the Florida Wildlife Federation supports the need to reform both Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

This is an effort to address the hurricane taxes that are levied on our insurance premiums due to the structure of these government-run entities. Nonprofits and all Florida insurance policyholders are still paying for the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes and will be forced to continue paying for these storms for at least five more years.

FWF will continue to advocate for legislative reform that will end the practice of allowing Citizens Insurance and the Cat Fund to subsidize reckless coastal development in the most hazardous areas of the state with artificially low premiums. Not only is it ethically and fiscally inappropriate to require these subsidies from Florida’s businesses, nonprofits and working families, it also threatens the remaining unblemished beaches, coastal environments and barrier islands that are central to Florida’s tourism and economic development.

Moreover, natural, undeveloped coastal islands benefit all Floridians by helping reduce inland storm damage. Actuarially sound insurance rates will serve as disincentives to future development in low-lying, flood-prone areas and along undisturbed coastal barriers.

In 2010 — an overall active Atlantic Basin hurricane season — we were fortunate to have been spared, thanks to steering currents. But another storm season starts in just three months. It is imperative that Florida’s legislative leaders use this regular session to make desperately needed changes to protect Florida, residents and the environment from these irrational insurance subsidies.

We should not continue to allow all Floridians, including nonprofits, businesses, schools, churches, renters and automobile policyholders across the state, to subsidize those who choose to live in high-risk, flood-prone areas.

I urge elected leaders to change Citizens and the Cat Fund to eliminate the insurance surcharges all Floridians are paying and help protect our coastal environment, which provides so many economic and environmental benefits.

Manley Fuller is president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

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