|By Charles Elmore, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
That expanding surplus, created by rising Citizens rates, reduced coverage and seven years of little storm damage, sets up a showdown in coming weeks about what to do with it.
Company executives have proposed spending what amounts to a majority of the year's projected surplus --
But some lawmakers have criticized the plan as corporate welfare, unnecessarily giving away hard-earned ratepayer money. The surplus acts as a cushion to pay claims. The larger the surplus gets, the lower the risk of assessments to anyone and the lower the need, for example, to charge customers for expensive private reinsurance from unregulated offshore interests.
Incoming House speaker
Existing "depopulation" plans at the close of the year are already giving about 300,000 customers a choice to move to a new company without the loan incentives. The year is already on track to produce the biggest takeout totals for Citizens since 2008.
The Citizens board will meet Tuesday in a workshop expected to deal with the 2013 budget as well as fallout from the firing of internal watchdogs. The disbanded corporate integrity unit was investigating other uses of the surplus -- such as paying more than
Citizens continues to grapple with sinkhole claims, mostly on the state's west coast, but storms have not taken a substantial chunk of the surplus for a seventh straight year. Named storms including Beryl, Debby and Isaac produced 10,725 claims for
The surplus was forecast to grow by more than half a billion dollars in the company's 2012 operating budget, from
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