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Ever since the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein almost single-handedly brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon, they introduced into the political lexicon one of those clich?s that political pundits and journalists have grown to love and over-use. Be it a scandal or when there is an immediate emergency need on the government’s part to help its citizens, you can be assured that at least one voice will be heard condemning the problem at hand and saying, “Follow the money.” Over-used as the phrase is, it is helpful because it creates a kind of mental road map that makes the complicated seem straightforward. It also conjures up an image of someone in a backroom printing up bundles of money to address the latest emerging crisis, especially when that crisis is immediate and devastating to homeowners and the state’s economy.

Take, for example, the situation of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is propped up by policyholder assessments. Following the 2005 hurricane season, the residual market reported an estimated loss of $1.73 billion, which would have translated into an 11 percent assessment on policyholders. In an effort to spare policyholders the full brunt of the Citizens’ assessment, lawmakers authorized the use of $715 million in sales tax to help offset the deficit. The money reduced an estimated $920 million regular assessment against insurers to $205 million. For policyholders this equaled a difference between an estimated 11 percent assessment to 2.5 percent. And although the state didn’t completely subsidize Citizens’ losses, lawmakers did agree that the remaining eight percent assessment ($800 million) could be paid off over a 10-year period instead of one year, as previously spelled out in the statute.

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