Crist makes property insurance an election issue

TALLAHASSEE — Democrat Charlie Crist said Thursday he successfully reduced rising property insurance rates as governor and will do so again if elected, vowing to repeal a law enacted under Republican Gov. Rick Scott that he said provides weaker coverage at a higher price.

It’s a familiar theme for Crist, who campaigned in 2006 on a pledge to lower insurance rates that were skyrocketing after eight hurricanes battered Florida in two years. One of his first acts as governor was to call a special session to deal with rising rates. The result was lower rates by the state-created Citizen’s Property Insurance Corp., which took on more policies as national companies backed away from Florida.

“Rates fell a full 10 percent over the course of my term. We saved Florida families thousands of dollars. Rick Scott, unfortunately, had different priorities,” Crist said. “He took office and signed legislation the insurance companies wanted.”

Minutes after Crist’s announcement, the Office of Insurance Regulation announced that it approved the removal of 428,000 policies from Citizens to private companies. In all, nearly 900,000 policies have been approved for removal as the state tries to reduce the number of Citizens policies.

Under Crist, who was then a Republican, industry experts warned that the state was gambling that no hurricanes would hit Florida. If a major hurricane had hit, Citizens may not have been able to cover all claims and assessments would have been added to all Florida policies to cover the shortfall.

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