Assembly on deck for auto-insurance bill

Opponents of bill claim large companies no longer have to pay enough for medical bills

By Maggie Sams
The Badger Herald
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Updated Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Senate passed two bills Tuesday that would repeal current auto insurance legislation and require a supermajority vote to increase taxes in Wisconsin.

Senate Republican leaders were glad to finally pass the auto insurance bill, which repealed former Gov. Jim Doyle’s 2009 legislation they said increased rates for insurance buyers.

“I think the letters so many drivers got from their insurance carriers about why their rates went up drove that point home pretty well, “ Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a statement. “It shouldn’t have taken two years, but we finally corrected a big mistake today.”

The bill would reduce Doyle’s auto insurance coverage limits in half, requiring providers to only pay $25,000 in a one person accident and $50,000 in a two person accident, Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, said.

He added the bill would put Wisconsin’s auto insurance limits in line with 46 other states.

Critics said insurance minimums included in the bill are not substantial enough to cover increased medical expenses facing citizens today. Ed Vopal, president-elect of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, said Doyle’s insurance limit increases under were necessary because of increased medical costs.

“Expenses have increased 400 percent since 1982, but there was no increase in auto liability insurance,” Vopal said.

He added he hoped the Legislature would revisit the bill in the future.

The second piece of legislation the Senate passed would require a supermajority — two-thirds of the votes — to pass any bill that would increase sales, income or corporate taxes.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said the bill is a sign to the people of Wisconsin that the government would reduce spending instead of increase it.

Critics point out Wisconsin sales and corporate taxes have rarely been raised.

“Yes, you will need a two-thirds vote of legislature to increase sales tax, income or corporate and franchise tax rates,” said Mike Brown, spokesperson for Sen. Mark Miller, D- Monona. “But state sales tax last changed in 1981 or ‘82. Clearly this bill isn’t fixing anything.”

The auto insurance bill still needs to be passed by the Assembly. Walker is expected to sign the supermajority bill when it comes across his desk.

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