Florida Governor Charlie Crist on Insurance Reform and Staving off Alabama
We would like to see some state economic development effort focused on the Northwest Florida area. Santa Rosa is a border county competing with a very aggressive neighbor state — Alabama — and we feel that the effort in attention and dollars from Tallahassee could be better. Perhaps this could involve enhancing tax and other incentives from the state level to assist local economic development groups in competing for new businesses — particularly in the aerospace and defense area? Gov. Charlie Crist answers.
Staving off Alabama and insurance reform
Q: We would like to see some state economic development effort focused on the Northwest Florida area. Santa Rosa is a border county competing with a very aggressive neighbor state — Alabama — and we feel that the effort in attention and dollars from Tallahassee could be better. Perhaps this could involve enhancing tax and other incentives from the state level to assist local economic development groups in competing for new businesses — particularly in the aerospace and defense area? —Ferd Salomon, Chair, Team Santa Rosa Economic Development Council, Milton
Gov. Crist: A lot can be done, there’s no question about it. Hopefully, what looks like a stabilizing economy will continue and we’ll have additional opportunities through the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to continue to bring new businesses to Florida and to support existing ones. One great example, for the Panhandle in particular, in terms of commitment by both this administration and the business community, is the new airport in Panama City. That is a beacon of great light as it relates to future economic development for the region. Having grown up in Tampa Bay, I saw what (the new airport) did for that region. It was nothing short of an economic boon to Tampa Bay. This administration is committed to moving that (Panama City) project along in a smooth, responsible way. So, I think there’s a lot of reason for good hope in the future.
We’d love to put more money in next year’s budget for economic development and will strive to do so. All that is contingent, of course, on what the economy does and what the revenue stream is as it relates to our budget. But, having said that, if we continue to see a decent improvement as it relates to sales tax and other revenues, there is a possibility that can occur. First and foremost, we have to live within our means. Florida families have to do it, so should their government. If we have the opportunity to have additional dollars to attract economic development, or have other tax incentives to do so, we’re committed to doing it.
Q: Because the state wouldn’t allow State Farm’s rate increase, I need to try to insure a house built after WWII. I will spend more money trying to make sure I have coverage because I have to pay for the four-point re-inspection of my home. The coverage I’m likely to get will be at the same rate (or higher) than I would have been charged under State Farm’s rate increase. How does that help homeowners and businesses in Florida that were State Farm customers? —Susan Gage, Tallahassee
Gov. Crist: Actually, I think consumers will end up paying less because they will shop different companies. One easy way to do that is through shopandcomparerates.com. We have experienced over the last two years up to 47 new companies moving into the Florida market. That obviously creates a tremendous amount of additional choice for the consumer, thereby empowering the well-informed consumer. Shopandcomparerates.com breaks down county-by-county what the available insurance companies are for the consumer and what the rates are. And there is a wide variance of rates that can be chosen by the consumers to save money. The overall savings throughout Florida the past two years is approaching 16 percent lower than what consumers were paying before the reforms we were able to get through in January of 2007. I hope you will have a pleasant surprise.
Want to Ask Charlie Crist a Question? 850 editor Linda Kleindienst meets quarterly with Governor Crist to ask the questions at the top of your list. E-mail your inquiries for the governor to firstname.lastname@example.org and look in our upcoming issues for his responses. Please include your name, e-mail address and city.