Tampa Bay Times
For all the focus on the federal deficit in the presidential campaigns, decisions closer to home are already taking a big bite out of Floridians' wallets. In the past year, state and local leaders, by direct action or acquiescence, have made sure the cost to live in Florida will be higher next year and beyond. It's a reminder that elections matter — and not just those races at the top of the ticket. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 general election is Tuesday.
Insurance: State-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. did not just raise general rates 10.8 percent this week. It also increased separate sinkhole rates by 25 percent in Pasco and Hernando counties and by 50 percent in Hillsborough County. That comes after Citizens forced policyholders to pay more than $100 million in additional premiums by reinspecting their homes and taking away discounts for hurricane-hardening efforts.Then there is auto insurance. Just this week came the news that the new state law that was supposed to reduce premiums won't have that effect after all.
Property taxes: Legislative leaders forced disputed Medicaid bills onto counties, which led to a property tax increase in Pinellas County. A failure to overhaul emergency medical service in Pinellas also has led to higher property taxes for EMS to keep a system running that is high-quality but too expensive.
In St. Petersburg, while the City Council rightly rejected Mayor Bill Foster's regressive fire fee, it did not consider further spending cuts or using reserves, and approved a 15 percent increase in the property tax rate.
Electricity: Starting in January, Progress Energy customers' bill for an increasingly expensive proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County will jump nearly 20 percent, to $3.45 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage each month — for a project that may never be built. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments this week seeking to overturn the so-called advanced nuclear recovery cost fee, but the Legislature should repeal this 2006 law. Also on the horizon for Progress customers: costs stemming from the botched repair at the Crystal River nuclear plant. So far the PSC has shown no interest in holding the company to account. And rather than change the status quo, Gov. Rick Scott last month reappointed Commissioner Lisa Edgar.