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Reilly advocates for lower rates

State Representatives Sean Curran and Cheryl Rivera and Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan flank Attorney General Thomas Reilly. Reilly campaigned at Springfield City Hall for an 18 percent decrease in auto insurance rates. Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Attorney General Thomas Reilly brought a campaign to push for an 18 percent decrease in auto insurance rates to the area on Wednesday, but Reilly said that this was not the time to switch to a competition driven insurance market.

Although he said he is in favor of a free marketplace, rather than rates being set by the state's Insurance Commissioner, competition must be phased in.

"There's a right way to do things," he said at the press conference. Good drivers need to be protected, he added, and the consequence of rushing into competition might be sharp spikes in the cost of premiums.

Reilly has announced his candidacy for governor, but said his call for lower rates was part of doing his job as Attorney General.

Reilly has a history of fighting rate increases. In 2001 he opposed an increase and obtained an 8.3 percent decrease. No rate increase was granted in 2002 but in 2003 and 2004 the insurance commissioner raised the rates over the $1,000 mark for the first time. Last year, Reilly pushed for a 6.2 percent decrease and received a 1.7 percent decrease.

Reilly asked that Insurance Commissioner Julianne M. Bowler lower current rates 18 percent, which could lower premiums, depending upon the community and driver, an estimated $200 to $300 annually.

The auto insurance companies have proposed a 0.1 percent decrease, which Reilly said would lower the average bill by about a $1.

Bowler will announce the new rates on Dec. 15.

Reilly's figure of 18 percent came from analysis of data from the Division of Insurance in August. Reilly explained that there has been a combined surplus of $755 million due to $335 million in over-projected losses, $85 million in inflated projections and unnecessary expenses, $40 million in failure to properly contain costs, and $295 million in windfall profits.

Reilly said that "facts are facts and the facts are on the drivers' side."

He said he asked Governor Mitt Romney to support the reduction, but that the governor "has decided not to join us."

Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan, Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan, State Senator Stephen Buoniconti and State Representatives Cheryl Rivera, Sean Curran and James Welch joined Reilly at the press conference.

Reilly said that he appreciated the kind of support from the legislative delegation that was demonstrated at the press conference.

Buoniconti said the Legislature is planning to address insurance reform in the spring. Romney has proposed his own auto insurance reform plan, which Curran said he would vote against.

Sullivan said the current prices of auto insurance are "categorically unfair" to the working poor who need a car for work.