To the Contrary

Coastal insurance reform

Gov. Mark Sanford and Insurance Commissioner Scott Richardson can count coastal insurance reform in the victory column this legislative session. The insurance bill, passed earlier this month by the House and Senate, is a bright spot in a legislative session marked more by what did not get done than what did.

The "market-driven" approach lays out a series of steps to help make insurance in the state's coastal areas more available and more affordable. ...

The overhaul goal of this bill was to try to keep private insurers in the game. Many states along the Gulf and East coasts have greatly increased the number of homes covered by "last-resort" insurers ...

We've already seen some results as the bill worked its way through the legislature. Three companies announced they would offer coverage in South Carolina, and Allstate and some other companies have reduced the number of homes they are dropping.

The ultimate test will be the storm season.

The cigarette tax

When the legislative session ended, it was without lawmakers approving an increase in the state's lowest-in-the nation cigarette tax. That puts off for at least another year an increase that is inevitable and which a growing number of lawmakers see as desirable. ...

So why is the tax continuing to stall?

The increase remains a tax hike during a time when state revenues are increasing and many in the General Assembly have pledged not to raise taxes of any kind. ...

As much as tax opponents can use the legislative rules to foster delay, the pro-increase forces know how to play the political game, too. They won't win the day this year, but they'll be back next January when the legislation will be on the agenda in a continuing session. A big variable will be election-year politics, but with tobacco continuing to be a favorite target both for those looking to raise revenue and those prioritizing a reduction in the number of smokers, the ranks of supporters remain likely to grow.

  Comments