Thursday, January 25, 2007

The General Assembly Should Be Fired!

also posted on Maryland Politics Today

Let's place the proper blame on this past summer's attempted spike in BGE bills to where it really belongs, The General Assembly. Most of the members who were there in 1999 when they passed deregulation and rate caps that were eerily set to expire during an election year.

One of the things that complicated matters was the fact that no one expected a Republican Governor to ever get elected. The governor gets to pick who he wants to serve on the Public Service Commission, which means he would get the majority. Another complication is the cost of energy that has rose dramatically since 1999, which factored in to the rate hike. BGE also sold of some power plants, which meant that they had to buy energy.

Those factors combined with in essence a General Assembly screw up caused for things to be heated up (and it was not the record heat at the time that contributed to the inferno of events.)

This summer, democratic lawmakers only delayed the inevitable in rising utility bills. They delayed dealing with the issue until after the election. Looking between the three plans that were approved (albeit that only one was implemented,) between Governor Ehrlich, the Public Service Commission and the General Assembly, Ehrlich's plan had the best and the General Assembly had the worse.

Ehrlich's plan would have phased in a rate hike, where the last two years of the phase-in would be based on market rates, which actually meant that bills might be cheaper. The PSC plan that they approved was somewhere in the middle. They had a deferment plan which would have tacked on interest. The best part of this compromise was that customers had the option of taking on the full 72 percent hike as opposed to having it deferred. The General Assembly had the worse, in which no one had the option of opting out of the deferment plan right away.

The Public Service Commission is practically blameless in this situation. Let's be honest and ask this question, if Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was elected governor in 2002, would the firing of the PSC even be discussed?

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