Monday, April 20, 2015

Serving business agenda, WI GOP legislators strangle utility watchdog

[Updated from Sunday.] Republicans running state government do not miss a trick when it comes to serving their donors' big business agenda.

The latest example:

Tom Content at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the GOP-run state legislative Joint Committee on Finance has summarily cut a $300,000 grant from the proposed 2015-'17 Wisconsin budget which just year helped the state-created Citizens Utility Board, (CUB) - - the utility ratepayers' watchdog group - - save state utility ratepayers $161 million.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission - - key words "Public...Service..." has directed the relatively-modest-but-effective grant to CUB the last few years from among billions of ratepayers' dollars collected annually by monopoly utilities so CUB can bring some public service representation for ratepayers before the PSC.

Writes Content:
Last year, the state's top five electric and natural gas utilities collected $8.6 billion from Wisconsin ratepayers. So this cut would represent savings of less than a penny for every $100 that electric customers pay.
The story notes that most states have groups like CUB - - and though Wisconsin Republicans are always justifying their self-serving 'reforms' like Voter ID, higher speed limits, and tax cuts for the wealthy because all the kids other states have them - - helping for-profit utilities squeeze ever penny possible from everyday Wisconsinites takes precedence.

CUB is now a non-profit organization with a four-person staff and shoe-string fundraising operation always playing David to the well-heeled/well-connected corporate Goliaths before the utility-friendly PSC.

Enter the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. It didn't like what it laughably called a special interest subsidy in the budget.

The MMAC has been a major Walker campaign donor - - even breaking the law with excess donations in 2012, records show.

So GOP committee chairs State Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren dutifully snapped to attention and engineered, on a 12-4 party-line vote, the deletion of this very productive $300,000 public-interest expenditure from what will eventually be a budget in the $70-billion range.

Because if there's one thing that the GOP-led budget-writing committee has consistently done since Walker and his party took over the show, it has been making sure that no special interest gets a subsidy through the budget.

Because that would be wrong and flagged by concerned policy ethicists like the MMAC and its partners on the committee, like long-term chair Sen. Darling, from the upscale suburban Milwaukee GOP-dominated enclave of River Hills.

Wait a minute:
GOP panel votes for corporate tax break
Madison - Republican lawmakers voted Tuesday to trim taxes for corporations and investors while further cutting tax credit programs for the working poor. 
"'s very much in keeping with our agenda," said Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the committee.
I see that WE Energies, is represented among the MMAC's Officers and Board of Directors.

I wonder if all the customers and shareholders represented by the MMAC and its lobbying staff like paying gas and electric bills at the highest possible rates?


Raven said...

Why yes, yes, we public-spirited citizens would rather be gouged by outrageous utility rates than see "special interests" (like Citizens Utilities Boards that serve us by keeping rates down) trivially funded, or — worse yet — have those poor woebegone utilities taxed at a full rate... because corporate taxes are BAD... and our personal taxes can easily increase to fill in the state deficititititit!

(Pardon me, the string to my jaw got stuck a bitititit....)

Anonymous said...


But not in the least bit surprising.

Anonymous said...

The next time these GOP legislators stand for re-election (and that day is coming), hopefully their constituents will remember that the GOP chose to protect the profits of business over the needs of the citizens.

Anonymous said...

We've had a summer cottage for 20 years and get our electricity from the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation out of Green Bay. The same poles and wires have been there forever and we only use electric power for about 4 months per year. We are now billed in excess of $20 per month for not using any electricity supposedly to maintain the same poles and wires that have been there since we have!

my5cents said...

I wish someone would examine why I get almost $17 a month in taxes tacked onto my cable bill too. That is insane.

Anonymous said...

Like Scott Walker says, "Wisconsin is open - for Business".

Anonymous said...

They can burn this candle from both ends.

If bills are low, Walker's a genius.

If bills are high or there are blackouts, Obama's a tree hugger commie.