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Floridians to get break on insurance bills

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TALLAHASSEE, FL (WFLA) -

Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Wilma lumbered through South Florida consumers across the state are finally going to stop paying the bill associated with that storm.

State officials on Tuesday agreed to end the 1.3 percent surcharge that is placed on most insurance policies, including homeowner and auto policies.

"This is good news for consumers," said Jack Nicholson, chief operating officer for the fund that has been collecting the surcharge that some critics have labeled a "hurricane tax."

The state was forced to place the emergency assessment on insurance bills after the backup fund used to help private insurers pay off claims ran out of money in the wake of Wilma. Wilma was the fourth storm of 2005 and the eighth storm that hit the state during a two-year period.

The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund was forced to borrow a total of $2.61 billion to reimburse private insurers.

The assessment was initially expected to remain on insurance bills until July 2016. But the state was able to reach settlements with the last batch of insurers and has enough money left over to retire the bonds it issued.

The vote on Tuesday ensures that the assessment will no longer appear on policies renewed or issued on or after Jan. 1, 2015.

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