Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Congress should create a national catastrophe insurance fund

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: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18