Sales tax revenue up; Citizens rate increase remains

Sales tax collections in St. Mary Parish are showing third quarter increases.

Data presented to the informal St. Mary Parish Council of Governments group Monday by the parish sales and use tax department show third quarter rises of 3.8 percent in July, 10.9 percent in August and 1.5 percent in September over the same period in 2011.

There is an accumulated 2.7 percent growth over 2011 in year-to-date collections.

Total collections so far this year rings in at $30.98 million.

Also Monday, state Sen. Brett Allain and Rep. Sam Jones briefly addressed the group of public officials.

Allain urged officials to submit capital outlay requests quickly with the deadline for those funds approaching.

Jones said the Louisiana Attorney General ruled against an appeal of rate hikes from Citizens Insurance.

He said he and Allain supported seeking the AG’s opinion on the “terrible and we think illegal way that the insurance commissioner and Citizens reestablished rates for the program in St. Mary Parish. I made a number of calls, tried to work every angle I could. We all supported State Treasurer’s John Kennedy’s request to the attorney general.”

The response was that the process used was legal, Jones said, but did specify that “the companies used to establish those new rates have to be real companies, not phantom companies… that’s what they did in this parish. There are no other insurance companies writing that business for hurricane protection for wind and hail. So they used a model, and the model was that, ‘What if there was a company, and this is what they would charge.’ Phantom companies that allowed them to create phantom numbers.”

Allain added that legislation is in the works to make sure “this never happens again. No one parish can see a 171 percent increase in wind and hail coverage. That’s just too much of a burden on our people.”

The legislation would limit increases to 20 percent, and Citizens can never “interpolate what they think a rate should be again. It’s got to be a hard competition; it’s got to be someone writing policies.”

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