Senate puts $20M back in wind pool

Bill returns to House

The state Senate restored $20 million for the homeowners insurance wind pool Tuesday, replacing a chunk the Senate Appropriations Committee had recently stripped out over budget concerns.

Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, offered an amendment Tuesday to the Mississippi Insurance Department’s appropriation bill to restore the funding. The amendment was adopted without a roll call, with the bill unanimously passed the Senate. Now, the measure heads back to the House, which previously approved the spending.

Baria expects a fight to keep the extra funding, which Coast business leaders and lawmakers have supported in the years since Hurricane Katrina in an effort to stave off larger premium increases for tens of thousands of homeowners.

The wind pool is the government-backed insurance of last resort for those who can’t get wind insurance coverage from the private sector.

The bill would add to about $187 million in federal and state money that has been pumped into the wind pool since Hurricane Katrina.

The bill also includes authorization to spend $15 million, which Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said would come from what is still owed to the program to complete an $80 million appropriation passed several years ago.

Chaney told the Sun Herald on Monday he doesn’t expect any new money for the wind pool this year, noting the Senate Appropriation Committee’s objection to it.

Gov. Haley Barbour has said the state doesn’t have $20 million more to give the wind pool this year because the state owes the federal government a large tab for matching funds.

The governor said state officials were hoping that the match might be reduced or forgiven, but as of Tuesday afternoon, Barbour’s Press Secretary Dan Turner said nothing has changed.

“We haven’t received any notification we are free from paying that money,” Turner said.

By MICHAEL NEWSOM – mmnewsom@sunherald.com
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