Governor accepts utility check, then stays out of rate case debate
Gov. Rick Scott appeared last weekend at the RedState 2012 gathering in Jacksonville and proclaimed to the conservative crowd there that "anything that comes out of your pocket I want to reduce. I want to reduce every fee and tax I can."
Does that include utility bills? The state's largest electric company, Florida Power & Light, for example, is seeking a base rate increase of $5.23 beginning next year on a 1,000 kilowatt hour monthly bill for residential customers. The rate case begins this month.
Scott, whose job it is to appoint the commissioners to the PSC and whose political committee accepted a $250,000 check from FPL on June 4, answered: “That’s a totally different issue. What I’m focused on is if we can control the cost of government. If we can make sure we leave as much money in a family’s pocket (so) they can afford -- whether it's the house, the apartment, their car -- things like that."
He will be asked later this year to appoint a commissioner for the post now held by Commissioner Lisa Edgar, who is also seeking a third term.
Scott obviously takes a very different view of the PSC than his predecessor Charlie Crist, who sought consumer advocates for the job, only to have them rejected by the Legislature and openly urged the commission to keep customer costs down.
"The commission is dealing with a separate issue,'' Scott said Tuesday. "...What I can have an impact on is how you spend your tax dollars. That’s what I’m responsible for. The commission is responsible to go through and work with the utilities.”
If the commission does nothing and rejects the rate increase, FPL's 4.5 million customers would see the money that comes out of their pocket for electricity reduced. Fuel costs and other changes will result in reductions of $4.66 cents a month for 1,000 kwh customer in 2013, according to the Public Service Commission. If the full rate increase is approved, the savings disappears next year and that same customer pays 57 cents more a month and 84 cents more in 2014.
From the Public Service Commission press release:
"As of January 2012, a 1,000 kwh monthly bill for residential customers is $94.62. Using FPL’s proposed increase, a 1,000 kwh monthly bill for residential customers is estimated to be $95.19 in January 2013 and $96.03 in June 2013. These charges include a base rate increase of $5.23 and $1.86 respectively, however, with an estimated reduction in fuel costs and other bill changes, the proposed net increase is $0.57 and $0.84, respectively. FPL provides electric service to more than 4.5 million retail customers in all or parts of 35 Florida counties."
Meanwhile, the Public Service Commission Nominating Council will be interviewing candidates on Aug. 22 at the Hyatt Regency airport Orlando. They will choose three names to send to the governor. Will he ask the nominees whether they "want to reduce every fee and tax" -- or not?