Crist says he will 'guarantee' much lower rates for property insurance

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Anthony Mann
Published  March 22, 2007

Tallahassee– Gov. Charlie Crist sought Wednesday to reassure Floridians that they would get larger reductions in their property insurance premiums than the single-digit price cuts the industry proposed last week.

"You need relief and we know it and we feel it," Crist said. "Don't believe ... your rates aren't going to go down as much as we would like. They are. I guarantee it. They're going to keep going down."

The insurance industry rate filings, prompted by a law crafted in January by Crist and the Florida Legislature, were far less than the reductions predicted by the state's political leaders. Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty had estimated average rate reductions of 24 percent on overall premiums.

State Farm Florida Insurance Co., the state's largest private home insurer, last week requested a statewide average decrease of 7 percent. Among other big insurers, Allstate Floridian Insurance Co. suggested a 14 percent reduction, Nationwide Insurance Co. of Florida came in at 4.6 percent, and USAA with 3.1 percent.

After the plans from the state's biggest private property insurers came out, Crist said he met with McCarty and asked, "What's up with the filings? Some of them are minuscule; some of them are 34 percent -- which we like -- in reductions. And he said, `Well that doesn't mean we have to accept their nominal reduction, Governor.' I said, God I love you."

The governor made his comments Wednesday morning to a group of political and business leaders at Broward Days, an intensive annual lobbying push that brings people from South Florida to the capital.

During a separate Broward Days appearance, Florida Senate Minority Leader Steven Geller, D-Cooper City, used stronger language in offering a similar insurance assurance.

"Take a chill pill," Geller said. "Just calm down."

Like the Republican governor, Geller said that the rate proposals from the insurance industry are "not the approved rates. ... They are not going to be approved."

Homeowners simply aren't seeing the savings they were promised, said Ginny Stevans, president of Having Affordable Coverage, an insurance consumer group based in New Port Richey. She thinks property insurance is taking a back seat to taxes, even though legislators still have much to do to fix the state's insurance problems. Legislators are in session until May 4.

"Here's the thing that really aggravates me -- some of these companies are giving discounts on top of increases. You're not going to get any relief. You're just going to get a lower increase," Stevans said. "Who did that help?"