Insurance bias: city driving at suburban rates
I must take issue with the letters submitted by Messrs. Bishop and Kelly ("It depends on where you live", Forum, Dec. 27) defending the territorial-rating system for setting auto insurance rates, which in its current form discriminates against those of us who live in cities such as Baltimore.
This rating system, based solely on the location of the owner's residence, fails to take into account the primary use of almost all privately owned cars, which is commuting to work. A lot of those same drivers who live in the suburbs can be seen clogging the JFX and other city thoroughfares every working day. Yet for all the time and mileage expended in so-called "high-risk" areas, these vehicles are insured at suburban rates, and so do not pay for their share of the risk incurred. No insurance company I have ever dealt with cared where I worked, as long as I could afford the premiums.
The ideal territorial-rating system would give equal weight to the location of the operator's workplace as well as residence, obtaining the risk factor from both. Since suburbanites who work downtown would thus pay more, this should make rate reductions possible for city residents, especially those who work in the counties.
Mr. Kelly's assertion regarding The Sun's poll of Dec. 18, wher
more callers favored territorial rating, is meaningless without knowing how rate reform would affect those responding to the poll. It seems a safe bet that Bishop and Kelly, as well as those poll respondents favoring the status quo, live outside the city and are paying the lower insurance rates. I agree, however, with Mr. Kelly in that the alternative of not driving to work is an excellent one. With the Metro and the coming light rail line, Baltimore area residents have far less reason to battle downtown traffic. The continuing purchase of MTA monthly passes might be a good basis for discounting auto insurance rates.
Finally, I am appalled that Insurance Commissioner Donoho couldn't come up with a simple plan such as I have described. Since his reaction was simply to rubber-stamp the system dictated by the insurance industry, I support those who call for his resignation or ouster.
It took Rep. Helen Delich Bentley to come up with this brilliant idea, as old as mankind, of barter and exchange, rather than loan and forgive, as seems to be our foreign policy of today.
We taxpayers are getting tired of having our hard-earned dollars poured down the foreign funnel, never to return.
So why not bypass money? We have grain, which Russia needs, and Russia has oil, which we need, so what could be a more expedient solution than barter and exchange?
What are the male members of Congress doing? Sitting on their brains?
Blanche K. Coda
Tax rebellion afoot
Now that His Governorship has the Linowes Commission report, which recommends that his loyal subjects be relieved of $800 million or so of our hard-earned dollars so he can play some more of the Schaefer's follies game, I have a suggestion.
Why couldn't another study be done of the state government to see if some, or probably all, of that amount of additional taxes could be saved by eliminating waste and inefficiency in the governmental process. I would bet my next paycheck not only that it could be done but also that it will not be done.
It is ridiculous that a state the size of Maryland has one of the highest-paid governors in the country, has the fifth-highest overall tax burden in the country, and that the average state resident gets so little in return for his or her tax dollar.
I think the next civil war in this country will be a tax rebellion, and it appears that the first shots in Maryland were fired in the November elections. I hope it doesn't stop there.
The Dec. 17 and 18 "It's your call" column posed false questions to readers. You asked, "Would you consider paying higher taxes to avoid state layoffs? Or do you think state programs should be cut to avoid having to lay people off?"
As AFSCME Council 92 made quite clear in our series of actions following Governor Schaefer's initial proposal to lay off state employees, a budget is nothing more than priorities described in dollar terms. There is no automatic necessity to either raise taxes or cut programs to avoid layoffs. Alternatives within the budget, such as giant pay raises for top echelon government officials, are equal to the cost of full salaries of many state employees. As far as cutting programs, it's important to keep in mind that most programs rely on employees to provide services. A cut in employees mean a cut in services and the reverse is also true.
Since The Evening Sun is in a position to influence publi discussions on matters such as the state budget, we hope you will consider framing the question more accurately.
The writer is executive director of the American Federation of ? State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92.