Oklahoma legislative bills to target insurance rates, road funding

Monday, January 10th 2005, 5:26 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A bill filed for the upcoming session of the Oklahoma Legislature seeks to ease expected increases in auto insurance rates.

Freshman Rep. Jerry Shoemake, D-Morris, said Monday he has filed a bill to lower minimum insurance coverage levels that are scheduled to be increased in a law that takes effect April 1.

Experts say about 30 percent of Oklahoma motorists do not now carry liability coverage and Shoemake is concerned that percentage will increase if rates go up.

Oklahoma's minimum compulsory liability insurance limit is "10-20-10," meaning policies provided $10,000 in compensation for the injury or death of one person in an accident, $20,000 for multiple injuries or death, plus $10,000 property damage per accident.

Under the law taking effect in April, the levels go to "25-50-25," leading to predictions that insurance rates will go up from 20 percent to 30 percent for people who now carry the minimum protection.

Shoemake is proposing a compromise, setting minimum coverage levels at "15-35-15."

"I know that $15,000 isn't much liability protection anymore, but with the number of people that don't carry liability insurance, I just think we need to keep the minimum levels affordable," he said.

In another bill filed for the upcoming session, Rep. Jim Newport, R-Ponca City, filed legislation to redirect car tag money from the state's General Fund to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Newport wants to redirect funds derived from the state motor vehicle tax to pay for road and bridge maintenance and improvements.

He said the tax raises about $600 million a year, with 55 percent of those funds earmarked for such areas as education and county and city government. The remaining 45 percent goes to the General Fund, out of which most of state government is funded.

Under Newport's legislation, the first $5 million collected each month from the motor vehicle tax in Fiscal Year 06 would go to highways. That amount would go to $10 million each month in Fiscal Year 07 and $15 million each month in Fiscal Year 08 and subsequent years.

All totaled, the change would deposit $60 million, $120 million and $180 million in the highway fund during the next three years.