After a long debate, a majority of the House of Representatives voted Feb. 26 to authorize Georgia Power to begin charging its customers higher rates in 2011 for advance financing of the construction of two new nuclear reactors, which will not be in operation at Plant Vogtle before 2017 or beyond.
I opposed this legislation, SB 31, for several reasons. Utility rate decisions are under the authority of the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), not the state legislature. While supporters of the bill claimed this rate increase would create jobs and reduce costs in the long run, they were unable to give a clear reason as to why the Legislature was being asked to bypass the PSC. Also, the measure exempts large companies from the rate hike, leaving residential consumers and small businesses to shoulder the burden.
Another very serious concern for those of us in the Lake Hartwell area should be the lack of information on how the nuclear energy facilities will affect the water supply in the Savannah River Basin. I had requested an impact study several months ago as to how much additional water would be required to be released from Lake Hartwell for operations. No study was provided, but I was told the impact would be insignificant. (?)
The additional charges will provide Georgia Power stockholders an estimated $1 billion advance profit, plus prepayment of about $400 million in federal and state income taxes. Customers will also be charged additional sales tax on the higher rates.
Concerns over how rates would be affected if, for any reason, the nuclear reactors are not built also went unanswered by the bill’s supporters. This rate increase has no end date. But the measure passed and it is expected to be signed into law by the governor.
The House members voted Feb. 26 to approve an amended $18.9 billion state budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30. The budget had to be trimmed by $2.3 billion because of the shortfall in state tax revenues resulting from the economic recession.
Due to an influx of federal funding from the economic stimulus/bailout plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama, budget writers were able to come up with $428 million to restore the homeowner tax relief grants. These grants, which were marked for elimination in Gov. Perdue’s budget proposal, will save the average homeowner $200-$300 this year.
The House version of the plan also accounts for the furloughing of state employees in the Department of Human Resources and Department of Corrections, plus another $186 million in K-12 public school funding cuts that will have to be absorbed by local property taxpayers.
This spending plan represents a missed opportunity to implement prioritized budgeting in state government, including a complete audit of all state programs and private contracts. When the stimulus/bailout money from Washington, D.C., is gone, Georgia will still have its systemic problems in the budget process that have led to the current problems.
The Senate will now consider the supplemental budget while the House continues to work on the annual budget for fiscal year 2010.
Thursday, Feb. 26, was the 24th day of the 2009 session of the General Assembly, and the pace of legislation has picked up in recent days. Some of the bills approved by the House and sent to the Senate last week include:
HB 100, which would expand a state program implemented last year that provides income tax credits to individuals and corporate entities that donate to organizations set up to provide scholarships for parents to pull their children out of public schools and send them to private schools.
HB 149, which would allow students in their junior or senior year of public high school to study at a post-secondary college, university or technical college and receive high school credit, which would count toward graduation.
HB 229, which would require local school systems to conduct an annual fitness assessment and comply with state physical education instruction requirements.
HB 343, which would establish the position of weight inspector for the Department of Public Safety. The inspectors would enforce weight, registration, size and load regulations for commercial trucks.
Please contact me with your views on the issues facing the state legislature.
Rep. Alan Powell (D-Hartwell) represents the 29th District (Franklin, Hart and Madison counties) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 507 Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; by phone at 404-656-0202 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visitwww.alanpowell.net.
03/10/09 at 07:48 AM
I oppose as well, George Power is killing people with their rates already. I live in Danielsville I can only receive George Powers service and the way they act to me is that I pay their high bills or freeze,"do without electricity." They know they have us in the palm of their hand and it geets under my skin when they "GEORGE POWER" wants to raise any kind of price on their customers we are all trying to keep a float in these times "GEORGE POWER" have some kind of compassion. I have Three Kids from the ages of 15 months to 7yrs and 3 adults and 2 of them are unemployed it is really hard when they just up and add a $150.00 to your bill just because life has delt you a bad hand and you had to be out of work and you are behind on your bill a month everyone knows you get like that it is hard to bounce back.