Did you know that Florida's businesses and homeowners are facing hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance rate hikes and tax increases? These increased costs threaten our state's economy and your job.
The two most significant cost drivers are the state's workers' compensation system and a property insurance issue known as "assignment of benefits." The Florida House of Representatives has been aggressively working to solve these problems, but so far we have been fighting the good fight alone.
Fifteen years ago, Florida had the highest workers' compensation rates in the nation. In 2003, the Legislature reformed the system, which reduced workers' compensation rates by 61 percent and saved Florida's businesses over $3 billion in insurance premiums. Last year, the Florida Supreme Court, continuing a recent trend of judicial activism, struck down parts of the state's workers' compensation law. Due to these rulings and other rising costs, Florida's businesses are faced with a 14.5 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates, and potentially larger increases are on the horizon.
The $552 million extra dollars that Florida's businesses have to spend on workers' compensation insurance is money that was not spent on business expansion, new employees or raising salaries or benefits for current employees. Every new dollar a business has to spend on overhead puts our small and family-run businesses one step closer to failure.
"Assignment of benefits" may be an unfamiliar phrase, but if you own a home this issue is likely to drive up your property insurance bill. Property insurance rates are projected to climb by over $385 million next year and $2.1 billion over the next five years.
These issues present the most immediate crisis but they are only one a part of the Florida House's pro-jobs agenda. We are also attempting to lower the cost of automobile insurance in Florida, prevent a back-door property tax increase, eliminate job-killing regulations at the state and local level, and expand the homestead exemption for property taxes by an additional $25,000. In the Florida House, we understand that for Florida to prosper we must make our state an affordable and attractive place to live, work and raise a family.
Unfortunately, your representatives in the Florida House stand alone in this fight. Gov. Rick Scott has been indifferent at best on these issues. We would hope the governor would work with the House to save jobs by preventing Florida's businesses and families from having to pay hundreds of millions more in insurance and tax increases. Instead, he has spent the last few months traveling the state attacking House members for putting the welfare of the people of Florida ahead of corporate welfare.
The governor has used every ounce of his political capital on his obsession with Enterprise Florida. If you're against Enterprise Florida, he argues, you're against jobs. For those of you not familiar with Enterprise Florida, it is a state agency pretending to be a "public-private partnership," which means that taxpayers foot the bill while the people running the program spend extravagantly. Enterprise Florida writes corporate welfare checks. It subsidizes big companies with over 1,000 employees to compete against our small businesses, which make up 98.9 percent of all businesses in the state and employ nearly half of the state's private sector workforce and who almost never receive a penny of government money. It's an organization that picks winners and losers in the economy, and the losers are always Florida businesses.
We're near the halfway point of the 2017 legislative session, and we have to decide what really matters. We have to decide whether this session will be about protecting the wasteful, extravagant spending of Enterprise Florida or about preventing Florida's businesses and homeowners from being buried under an avalanche of unnecessary rate hikes.
The Florida House has chosen to stand with the people of Florida and address workers' compensation reform and assignment of benefits reform. We hope the governor will accept our invitation to set our past differences aside and join with us to ensure that these issues are resolved once and for all during this legislative session.
The people of Florida can't afford for us not to succeed.
Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, is speaker of the Florida House.