Friday, November 24, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Congress should create a national catastrophe insurance fund

RECOMMENDED READING


Thankfully, at least one impending crisis has been averted. President Donald Trump signed legislation that includes an extension for the National Flood Insurance Program that will keep it afloat until Dec. 8. Now it's time for Congress to finally come up with a reasonable solution that it has stubbornly, and illogically, avoided for years: Creating a national catastrophe fund.

The commonsense principles behind the idea are twofold. First, a national fund would spread the risk across state lines, covering floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and other disasters that can potentially bankrupt thousands of homeowners in a single day. Second, taxpayers across the nation are already funding the recovery from these disasters less efficiently through tax dollars that are flowing through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The catastrophe fund could provide private insurers a safety net by purchasing reinsurance and, thus, passing the savings on to consumers through lower premiums. The fund could also have a pool of money set aside for the immediate needs of victims in the wake of storms such as Harvey and Irma.

In Florida, the fund would also eliminate the increasingly unfair chatter in Congress about increasing NFIP rates to what are supposed to be actuarily sound levels. This was attempted once before with the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act, and it briefly paralyzed the real estate market in coastal communities. It was particularly hard on Florida, where the ballooning rates were not close to being historically valid.

Studies have long shown Floridians have put far more money into NFIP policies than we have ever taken out. As of this summer, Florida accounted for about 35 percent of all policies and yet had received only 7.28 percent of payouts in the last 40 or so years. To unduly penalize the Sunshine State by jacking up rates to unreasonable levels would be an unfair burden to homeowners and might defeat its own purpose. The number of NFIP polices in Florida has been dropping in recent years, and further premium hikes would only exacerbate the problem.

Legislators might be able to generate bipartisan support for a catastrophe fund by pursuing other more conservative solutions, including flood mitigation programs. That means encouraging raising the elevation of homes where possible; no longer building where it's inadvisable; and even buying properties where repeated flood losses have exceeded a structure's value. Those are sound options that minimize risk in a more measured approach than wholesale premium increases.

It is true that Southern coastal states have accounted for a large share of the NFIP's current debt. Louisiana and Texas alone have received 46 percent of the nation's flood payouts, and that portion will no doubt rise when Hurricane Harvey's toll is calculated. But it is grossly unrealistic to expect Florida, with more than one-third of the NFIP policies, to help rescue the program through even higher rates.

The rest of the nation sure seems to like Florida when it comes to playing on our beaches, visiting our attractions or enjoying our waterfront restaurants and bars. Those tropical amenities come at a cost. And the residents of this state should not be expected to shoulder that entire burden, particularly when Florida is already providing an outsized share of flood insurance funds and getting so little in return.

Floridians lose on flood insurance

Floridians get far too little return from federal flood insurance, which Congress plans to reform before December. Floridians represent almost 35 percent of the total number of policyholders now but have received just 7 percent of the total flood insurance payouts over the last 40 years. How is that fair?

State Portion of payouts Portion of policies

1978-2017 July 2017

Louisiana 33.95 9.92

Texas 12.04 11.98

New Jersey 10.43 4.61

New York 9.34 3.68

Florida 7.28 34.99

Mississippi 5.29 1.29

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Comments

Editorial: St. Petersburg should revisit approach to historic preservation

St. Petersburg is headed down a slippery path in the name of historic preservation. After a group of 10 property owners in the Old Northeast neighborhood won approval earlier this year to become a one-block historic district, two more groups of neigh...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Editorial: Strengthening the ties that bind in Seminole Heights following 4 killings

During this weekend of giving thanks, let’s recognize the Seminole Heights community for remaining united and committed to their neighborhood as residents cope with the stress and fear following a series of murders. Their response as police continue ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should help Florida agriculture recover from Irma

Editorial: Congress should help Florida agriculture recover from Irma

Florida agriculture took a beating in September from Hurricane Irma, which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses across the citrus, sugar, cattle and dairy industries. Yet despite a personal plea from Gov. Rick Scott, the Trump administrat...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Editorial: Senate should not repeal health insurance mandate to pay for tax cuts

There are all sorts of problems with the massive tax cut legislation the Senate is expected to vote on this week. Wealthy individuals and corporations benefit more than the poor and the middle class; by 2027, about half of all taxpayers would see a t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Ken Hagan should drop effort to recover attorney’s fees in ethics complaint

Editorial: Ken Hagan should drop effort to recover attorney’s fees in ethics complaint

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan says he’s standing on principle in his effort to collect $7,800 spent defending him against ethics charges that eventually were dismissed.If so, it’s the wrong principle. But Hagan’s strident position rings ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Another voice: Wall isn’t a lifesaver, it’s a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trump’s controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction — and even what type of wall — remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nation’s budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more — s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nation’s highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldn’t back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/22/17