State utilities urged to share U.S. tax break benefits with consumers

State governors in red and blue states alike say the federal tax overhaul dealt a massive blow to taxpayers.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Jan. 24, 2018 at 5:53 AM
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Jan. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. consumers should be the ones sharing in the corporate tax breaks for utility companies outlined in the federal code reform, state energy agencies said.

President Donald Trump signed into law a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code in late December, extending temporary relief to American taxpayers and permanent breaks for corporations, with oil, gas and utility companies sharing the gains.

After the signing, the Michigan Public Service Commission called on state utility companies to report on the impacts of the federal tax law, now by early February, and issued a new call asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to direct interstate natural gas pipeline operators to adjust their rates so consumers can benefit.

The MPSC said pipeline operators can either voluntarily adjust their rates retroactive to Jan. 1 or be subjected to a FERC investigation into whether rates are justified.

"Savings realized by interstate pipeline operators could be passed on to ratepayers in the form of a reduced gas cost recovery charge, which is how much a utility pays for the gas it supplies to its customers," the agency said in a statement.

In the state capital, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, called for state tax reforms to compensate for the estimated $1.5 billion tax increase on state residents that resulted from the elimination of personal exemptions.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said the cost to state taxpayers was closer to $14 billion. He said the federal tax cost was a "devastating" blow at the state level and he too was proposing ways to offset the impact.

In Texas, the top oil producer in the country, the Railroad Commission, the state's energy regulator, said cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent should mean consumers should be able to expect lower utility bills.

"These tax cuts are significant, and as a regulator, our role is to make sure Texas utilities implement them in a way that benefits consumers first," Railroad Commission Chairman Christi Craddick said in a statement.

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