Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the August issue of Governing, I described how South Carolina's response to the coastal property insurance crisis differs from Florida's. This was actually quite easy: Officials in South Carolina love talking about how they are not like the Sunshine State.
Prompted by populist governor Charlie Crist, in January Florida cut rates at its state-run "insurer of last resort" and allowed it to compete with the private sector. Translation: More Floridians will be getting their home insurance from the state of Florida.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is the anti-Crist and he's not ashamed to admit it (although I suspect some insurance industry representatives think that Crist is the anti-Christ). When Sanford signed his state's stab at coastal insurance reform, he declared, "This bill sends a strong signal to the insurance industry that South Carolina has rejected the government-centered approach to addressing the insurance crisis that has been adopted by states like Florida..." Crist and Sanford are both Republicans.
I spoke to Scott Richardson, Sanford's director of insurance for the state. With a little prompting from me, he happily took a couple of shots at Florida, noting that when a state government acts as insurer, it's that state's taxpayers who bear the financial risk in a disaster. Of Florida, he said, "Their citizenry is on the line for just about $15,000 per person."
South Carolina's legislation gave tax incentives for insurance companies to return to coastal areas. That approach, which Louisiana also is trying, is designed to restore private-sector competition and lower rates. Critics call it corporate welfare.
South Carolina also approved a small expansion of its insurer of last resort, but where Florida is lowering rates for costumers in the state-run insurer, South Carolina is raising them by 35% on average. The message: If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you're going to pay for it.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.