Florida CFO Jeff Atwater blasts Citizens Insurance for "dancing on tables without bras"

02/28/13 Janelle Irwin
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Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater fielded questions ranging from pensions to homeowner’s insurance at a nonpartisan political forum Thursday in St. Petersburg. Members of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club grilled Atwater about what’s being done to stamp out problems with Citizen’s Property Insurance.

Atwater was referring to a report released by the government run insurance program that uncovered an embarrassing list of alleged transgressions within the organization. But Atwater also pointed out that the soaring costs of homeowners insurance paired with the diminishing of coverage will get better.

Atwater was also questioned about the state’s pension system which has become the center of controversy because of attempts to roll state workers retirement plans from the traditional defined benefit program to a 401k-style system. Critics argue the change would hurt workers who may end up having to save more to meet their financial needs after retirement. Atwater didn’t weigh in on the advantages or disadvantages, but did say the current system is OK.

Governor Rick Scott has said he wants legislators to approve a budget that includes $2500 worth of annual raises to full-time classroom teachers. He’s also proposed spending more money to fix roads. But when asked about the wisdom behind immediately spending the projected budget surplus this year after years of budget deficits, Atwater said he wouldn’t recommend committing funds to recurring annual costs.

Before fielding questions, Atwater touted his legislative agenda which includes a proposition to audit contracts with the state at the beginning and at the end of a project.

Atwater said the checks need to be in place to make sure government organizations are getting what they’re billed for.

Other legislative priorities announced by Atwater include barring insurance companies from increasing the price of oral cancer medications and giving the Division of Public Assistance Fraud the authority to subpoena.

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