Today, Governor Rick Scott addressed the 6th Annual Insurance Summit and below are his prepared remarks for delivery.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
I want to thank you for inviting me today to the 6th Annual Insurance Summit. I would like to thank the Florida Chamber of Commerce and all the sponsors of this event. I especially want to thank David Hart for being a great partner to the Governor’s office. I appreciate his help in supporting our jobs agenda with the thousands of businesses around Florida.
GOVERNOR’S BUSINESS AMBASSADOR AWARD
In appreciation, I would like to present David with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award. This award is for those who help us attract business investment and job creation from all across Florida and around the world.
Please help me thank David and welcome him to the stage.
I would also like to recognize several legislative leaders here with us today:
- Senator Garrett Richter,
- Senator Alan Hays,
- Senator Darren Soto,
- Representative Jim Boyd,
- Representative John Wood,
- And, Representative Kevin Rader.
Each one of them is a distinguished Florida leader and it is an honor to serve along with them to help Florida families get a quality education and a great job and keep the cost of living low.
Please join me in giving them a round of applause.
AMERICAN DREAM/LIFE STORY
In 2010, I decided to run for Governor because I saw the American Dream fading.
Like all of you, I want to give more opportunities to my children and my grandchildren than I had growing up. But, in 2010, that dream was fading because of record-high state unemployment and record high state debt.
Much like our national economy, years of spending, government regulation and bad policy at the state level hurt Florida businesses, which also hurt Florida families who faced increased costs coupled with decreased job opportunities and job losses.
I ran for Governor because I was committed to reviving the American Dream for Florida families.
Floridians tell me all the time they care about three things: getting a quality education, a great job and keeping the cost of living low.
As Governor, the priorities of Florida families are my priorities.
Whenever anyone brings me a policy proposal or idea, I ask them one question: tell me how this helps families making $40,000 a year or less?
They represent almost half of all Florida families. That was also my family growing up.
My family struggled financially and we moved often as my parents struggled to make ends meet. I started school living in public housing. When I was 7, I got my first job selling TV Guides door-to-door because I wanted to help support my family.
I didn’t have a famous last name or a trust fund, but my parents gave me something even better, they taught me that the American Dream was real. They taught me that in this country, you could start anywhere in life and work hard and sacrifice to make your dreams come true.
After high school, I joined the US Navy, worked my way through community college, university, and law school. I went onto a successful career in law and then a career in business.
But, my job as Governor of the Great State of Florida is definitely the best job in the world.
In high school, my guidance counselor told me I should be a social worker, and that would be the job to best meet my skills. Well – now, I finally am one. Every day, I get to meet new people and listen to their ideas to what we can do at the state level to help them pursue their dreams.
Of course, job creation remains the single most important thing we can do to help Florida families.
When I ran for Governor, I committed to creating 700,000 jobs in seven years. I am proud to report that the Florida Legislature’s Revenue Estimating Conference recently announced that they expect Florida to surpass that goal and create 900,000 jobs by 2018.
We still have more work to do. As long as even one Florida family is struggling to get a job or a great education, our work must continue. But, there is no doubt that our state has begun a dramatic economic turnaround compared to where we were when I began my first-ever political campaign almost three years ago.
- First: Florida businesses are growing jobs.
- In the four years before I took office, Florida’s families had lost 825,500 jobs.
- Since I took office almost two years ago, Florida businesses have added nearly175,000 jobs, and we continue to put Florida families back to work every month.
- Second: Unemployment is down.
- In the four years before I took office, unemployment had more than tripled – from 3.5% to 11.1%
- Since I took office almost two years ago, unemployment has dropped from 11.1 percent to 8.5 percent — the largest drop in the country.
- Third: We are paying down state debt.
- In the four years before I took office, state debt increased by $5.2 billion.
- Since I took office almost two years ago, we cut state debt $2 billion.
Our state is growing, and more importantly, our businesses are once again creating jobs for Florida families so they can pursue their dreams.
For many Floridians, the American Dream means going to school, getting a good job, and marrying the sweetest, smartest, best-looking person you ever met (I married my beautiful wife, Ann, at 19), buying a home and having the most perfect kids you can imagine…of course, now, I have never met a cuter kid than my new little grandson, Auguste, I am sure every grandparent says the same thing.
For many of our families today, however, part of that dream is being lost because of the costs associated with home ownership such as property insurance – are simply too high.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has reported the average cost of a Florida homeowner’s policy is $1,534 per year.
How do we drive down the cost of insurance? There are three key first steps:
- First, we increase competition in the marketplace.
- Second we promote legislative and regulatory certainty in order to attract new capital.
- And, third we continue taking aggressive steps to eliminate fraud.
In order to decrease costs for Florida homeowners we must increase competition in the marketplace by addressing major concerns with Citizens Property Insurance.
Citizens was created to be the insurer of last resort. Today Citizens is now the largest insurer in the state.
Citizens poses three major concerns to our insurance market for Florida families who dream of owning a home:
- First, the existence of Citizens Insurance increases the chance that Floridians will be hit with hurricane taxes;
- Second, Citizens is grossly underfunded; and
- Third, Citizens inhibits new companies from coming to Florida resulting in less competition.
First, all of Citizens policyholders are subject to a special hurricane tax. Florida families could be hit with a hurricane tax at a time when they can least afford it, right after a devastating storm. And 79% of Citizens’ policyholders have no idea that they are subject to a hurricane tax.
Think about this. The average Citizens insurance policyholder pays a premium of approximately $2,300. If a storm hits that depletes Citizens’ surplus, either one big storm or several smaller storms, Florida’s families will be assessed hurricane taxes to pay for Citizens losses. This means that the average family with a Citizens policy faces a hurricane tax of over $1000.
A family may be forced to pay this tax even though their home wasn’t hit by a storm. A family in Tampa could be insured with Citizens and face a hurricane tax to pay for losses to Citizens’ policyholders in Miami.
If Citizens can’t pay its claims, the families with Citizens policies are first up for hurricane taxes. Then, once Citizens taxes its own policyholders, they will then tax every Floridian with an insurance policy in order to get additional funds.
So, Citizens Property Insurance poses a threat to each and every Floridian with an insurance policy. If Citizens can’t pay its claims, we are all on the hook for its losses. And Floridians can be taxed multiple times. Your homeowner’s policy could be taxed; your auto policy could be taxed. Even the policy on your family pet could be taxed.
That means that the average Florida family who owns a home and two cars could be taxed three times to pay for a Citizens’ deficit.
Most families have no idea that they are liable for the potential losses of the state’s largest property insurer.
My second major concern is that Citizens is woefully underfunded. Today, Citizens has a little over $6 billion in surplus. But one storm the size of Hurricane Andrew could result in nearly $14 billion in losses to Citizens. That’s an unfunded liability of nearly $8 billion dollars. The only way to pay for those losses is by taxing Florida families.
Finally, Citizens hurts Florida families by crowding out competition in the insurance marketplace, which limits the ability to reduce costs for homeowners.
I’ve traveled the state and spoken to numerous leaders of insurance companies to ask them: “What’s preventing you from expanding your business in Florida?” Nearly every time I’ve been told that the domination of Citizens Insurance prevents new companies from coming to Florida while also preventing existing companies from expanding in Florida.
How can any private insurance company compete with a government-sponsored entity that doesn’t pay taxes and doesn’t need to charge fair market prices? It can’t.
Shrinking Citizens is the first step toward increasing competition in the marketplace and driving down prices for homeowners.
Shrinking Citizens will also protect Florida families from hurricane taxes.
And, shrinking Citizens will attract new capital to Florida and help to permanently reduce the cost of property insurance.
To make the dream of homeownership a reality for more Floridians, we must reduce the size of Citizens, which has grown from an insurer of last resort to an insurance giant in just a matter of years.
We began making some progress toward this goal by giving over 400,000 Citizens policyholders the opportunity to return to the private insurance market this year.
Of course, we must also ensure Citizens is not wasteful. I recently directed the Chief Inspector General to investigate travel expenses and firings at Citizens. This report will tell us what additional steps must be taken to enforce oversight and compliance within Citizens. A taxpayer organized entity must be held to the highest standards of integrity and good stewardship of the public trust.
CERTAINTY TO ENCOURAGE CAPTIAL INVESTMENT
A second key step to reducing the cost of homeownership for Florida families is providing more certainty in our regulatory environment.
After the storms of 2004 and 2005, the legislature made sweeping changes to property insurance law. In 2007, they made even more changes. The wholesale changing of rules each year discourages companies from expanding in our state. Businesses are competing to succeed, but in order to compete they need and deserve a level playing field where the rules are not constantly in flux. Imagine trying to win a baseball game where the refs create new rules every inning. An unpredictable regulatory environment discourages competition because it can be impossible to figure out how you can succeed.
By treading lightly and encouraging steadiness in regulation we will signal to new insurance capital that there is stability in the way we do business in Florida. This means we can encourage more economic investment here which leads to more jobs for Florida families, in addition to the lower cost of insurance.
FIXING CURRENT SYSTEM
The third key step to driving down the cost of insurance is to eliminate fraud.
We need to consolidate the good public policy of Senate Bill 408. Senate Bill 408 introduced responsible reforms to eliminate fraud among sinkhole claims. I want to thank Senator Richter and Representative Wood for their stewardship of SB 408.
Please join me in a round of applause to thank them for their work.
At the same time, we need to encourage new insurers with good capitalization and clean balance sheets to return to Florida and especially to hard hit areas.
RECORD OF SUCCESS
While we know there is more to do to decrease costs for Florida families, we also have some important progress to celebrate.
I want to thank you for your help in reforming Florida PIP insurance. Together, we rewrote the laws, implemented meaningful tort reform, and gave law enforcement, regulators, and insurers the tools needed to begin to fight fraud.
I want to thank Senators Negron and Richter and Representatives Boyd and Nelson for their stewardship of HB 119 and their efforts to implement the good public policy of PIP reform.
Please join me in giving them a round of applause.
STREAMLINING SELF-CERTIFICATION ANNOUNCMENT/CONCLUSION
As our work to drive down costs for Florida homeowners continues, I am pleased to announce today that we worked with Insurance Commissioner McCarty to streamline the self-certification process.
The self-certification process will no longer require the “certification of compliance” with certain case law, a common sense reform to an unneeded bureaucratic requirement. This simple change creates a meaningful “use and file” system in Florida. It will help companies cut costs and create savings that can be passed on to Florida families.
One thing is certain: we get more accomplished when we work together to help Florida families pursue their dreams.
Together, we can help keep the American Dream alive in Florida for this generation and the next.
By increasing competition, reducing the size of Citizens, shoring up its solvency and eliminating fraud, we can decrease insurance costs and help make owning a home a reality for millions of families in our great state.