Empower Wisconsin | Sept 21, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Pay now or pay a lot more later.
That’s the position Wisconsin’s utility ratepayers face, and the liberal tools at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) are pushing the big bill back.
On Thursday, the PSC voted 2-1 to continue its moratorium on utility residential electric and gas disconnections to customers behind on their bills until Nov. 1. That means there will be no interruption of service to customers who can’t — or haven’t — paid their bills until at least April 15 of next year.
The moratorium, already previously extended, was supposed to lift on Oct. 1.
But the liberal majority thought that was unfair. COVID, you know. They contend that disconnecting utility service would pose a risk to hygiene standards during the pandemic.
“As public health experts continue to promote social distancing and shelter at home, people need access to utility service, specifically low-income residents who are unable to pay their utility bills at this time,” the majority order states.
Yes, the pandemic and the government-made problems that have resulted have hit some Wisconsinites particularly hard.
But the PSC’s actions have driven out any incentive for people who have the means to pay their utility bills, as commissioner Ellen Nowak has pointed out in a previous dissent, obtained in a records request by Empower Wisconsin.
In August, after the last extension, Nowak wrote, “This vote ignored the very foreseeable impact of the July extension of the moratorium.”
At that time, the PSC had evidence that, year over year, non-payment of utility bills had risen from 12.2 percent to 32.9 percent. So nearly one out of every three customers stopped paying utility bills. Given the unemployment rate of 8.5 percent at the time (it’s even lower now), Nowak wrote “it is clear that non-payment is more a matter of the actions of this Commission than our economic challenges.”
She was clairvoyant.
“An extension to October will clearly lead to an extension to November which means the incentive to pay is delayed until April 2021 given the winter moratorium that takes effect,” Nowak wrote.
And here’s the rub for ratepayers everywhere — particularly the two-thirds still paying their bills.
“The cost of one-third of residential ratepayers not paying their bills will be placed on the shoulders of a shrinking number of responsible ratepayers. Make no mistake, the Commission majority just voted to raise utility rates as soon as next year for everyone who pays their bills.”
At last week’s PSC meeting, liberal commission members sounded like they wanted the state’s largest utilities to consider eating a lot of the losses they are experiencing.
That’s how the left rolls. Be it the Green New Deal, Medicare for All or any of the countless other socialist plans to grow the government and expand benefits. They ignore the price tag or pass it along to the people who are still paying for the services.
It takes a real tool not to see that such policies will ultimately leave no one left to pay for the left’s benefits tree.
The liberal members of the Public Service Commission are such tools.
Empower Wisconsin’s Tool of the Week.