As government addresses the impact of climate change on coastal areas, the businesses and homeowners along the coasts have to do so as well. A bill passed by Congress in 2012 with rare bipartisan support that increased premiums for federal flood insurance did just that.
Coastal residents and businesses, including some in Massachusetts, are now complaining about the increases and lawmakers like Senator Edward Markey and Representatives John Tierney and William Keating are taking up their cause. These legislators, however, voted for this legislation in 2012 and they were right to do so. Backing off now is nothing more than election year politics.
According to a story in the Sunday Boston Globe, Democratic and Republican legislators from states along the East and West Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico are aligned in an effort to overturn the flood insurance provisions in the 2012 law. The federal program to provide insurance for those in flood-prone areas needed an influx of funding because it was becoming increasingly expensive. A bill before the Senate would delay the increases and restore federal subsidies for four years in a textbook example of Washington kicking the can down the road to neutralize a politically unpopular program.
The Hurricane Sandy relief effort cost $50 billion in taxpayer money, and while it had to be spent, the reality is that in the era of global warming massive hurricanes and tornadoes will become more common. Residents and businesses in harm's way should receive financial incentives to move elsewhere, not to rebuild in coastal areas that are increasingly disaster prone. Those who insist on staying in these areas must pay more in insurance for the privilege, as the 2012 law requires, and not expect taxpayers to routinely bail them out.
Lawmakers complain that the increase in flood insurance rates was included in a larger law and they could not vote against the increases. They also argue that the rate increases were higher than projected. These might be good arguments for reforming the measure but not for abandoning it or postponing it until 2018. The issue of increasing taxpayer money being distributed to people in coastal areas that are bound to be flooded must be addressed now, and it requires the political will to do so -- as was shown in 2012.