No new money in wind pool

Gov. Haley Barbour on Monday vetoed a homeowner insurance wind pool bill he said was unnecessary, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said new money for the program doesn’t appear likely this legislative session, given the state’s budget woes.

Barbour vetoed House Bill 173, which deals with the government-backed wind insurance program for those who can’t get coverage from the private sector.

The measure would have extended a repealer on legislation from 2007 that allowed $80 million into the state wind pool over four years. Barbour said the legislation, which contained no additional money for the wind pool, is unnecessary as installments were paid into the fund in 2007, 2008, 2009 and will be this fiscal year, which totals $80 million. Tax Commission spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said all $80 million will have been paid by June.

“At the end of this fiscal year all of our statutory obligations to the wind pool will have been fulfilled, with no need for this legislation,” Barbour’s veto message said.

Rep. Joseph L. Warren, D-Mount Olive, was the lone sponsor on the bill, which died with Barbour’s veto.

House Bill 1642, an appropriations bill for the Mississippi Insurance Department, contained $20 million in new funds for the wind pool, but the state Senate has removed the extra funding, Chaney said. It still does contain an authorization to spend $15 million, which Chaney said would come from what is still owed to the program to complete the original $80 million appropriation.

The Senate must act on the Insurance Department appropriations bill today to keep it alive. If the bill passes the Senate, it would go back to the House, which must agree to the changes. Although Coast lawmakers wanted the $20 million in the House bill, Chaney said he doesn’t expect the House will get the Senate to agree in conference.

Chaney doesn’t expect rates for Gulf Coast homeowners in the program to be lowered, either, but noted they are still higher in surrounding states. He said that in 2008, after part of the $80 million began to come in, rates were lowered 11 percent.

About $187 million in federal and state money has been put into the wind pool since Hurricane Katrina, but Chaney said he thinks that will get lost in talk of no new money going into the fund this year.

“There are a lot of good things,” Chaney said. “It just depends on how you spin it.”

By MICHAEL NEWSOM – mmnewsom@sunherald.com

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