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CA Fire Insurance Proposal

Written by Tuolumne County Supervisor Anaiah Kirk and Tuolumne County Assessor-Recorder Kaenan Whitman:

Thank you, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, for taking the first step in using the CA Fair Plan to help wildfire victims through SB 11.

We are writing because we would like to discuss possible follow-up bills regarding how we can use the CA Fair plan to further combat CA wildfires and thereby improve public safety, help home affordability, fight Climate Change, and improve our air quality.

– In 2020 CA Wildfires generated more than 91 million metric tons of CO2 which is equivalent to more than 25% of all fossil fuels generated emissions in the state annually.

– Every $500 increase in homeowner’s insurance results in lowering prospective buying power (loan) by over $9,300, which impacts home affordability in our great state. When someone is forced to switch to the Fair Plan it easily increases their insurance premium by $1,000 to $3,000. This lowers first-time home buyers’ purchasing power by $18,600 to $55,800, contributing to why thousands of Californians cannot afford homes.

– The destructive effects of wildfire on our agriculture are clearly outlined in your comments on SB 11. California accounts for 13.5% of agriculture receipts in the United States. It produces almost double the amount of the second-highest state in the country.

– Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick but at-risk people such as people with asthma, COPD, heart disease, children, and pregnant women are especially at health risk due to wildfire smoke.

We would like to discuss the possibility of the CA Fair Plan offering 20% discounts or more on insurance premiums to counties or cities that impose a tax or assessment on themselves specifically for preventing/combating wildfires. The money generated from this self-imposed tax could go toward creating and maintaining fire break lines, forest fuel reduction efforts, public awareness campaigns, and other wildfire prevention/combating solutions. Currently our local resources, money spent on increased annual insurance premiums, are being used to pay for future wildfire claims. We desperately need a solution that allows these local resources to be used locally to prevent and mitigate future wildfire destruction rather than being used to pay ongoing wildfire insurance claims.

To help initially fund the project, we could potentially use cap-and-trade funds whose mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as the 91 million metric tons of CO2 produced by California wildfires in 2020. As communities become more fire resilient the claims against the Fair Plan should drop to a point where the plan can pay for itself with the goal of getting private insurance companies to expand coverage to our area.

We mention this because Tuolumne County tried to pass a fire parcel tax, but we were unable to gain enough support to pass the measure. However, we are confident if homeowners were able to receive a 20% or more reduction on annual insurance premiums our parcel tax would have been successful. If this program is successful this would lower the number of future claims insurance companies would have to pay, improve public safety & health, and combat climate change.

We would appreciate the opportunity to show you past, current and planned projects Tuolumne County is working on to reduce catastrophic wildfires and the loss of personal property.

Assuming you can join us, we would also be pleased to work with your press secretary to invite local media to cover the event. Thank you for your hard work, we are ready and willing to work for a solution.

-Anaiah Kirk, District Three Supervisor and Kaenan Whitman, Assessor Recorder

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