Grover Norquist weighs in on Emery and Miller’s energy infrastructure bills

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Two proposed energy bills in the Missouri legislature have been heavily debated in the past few weeks, as they seek to upgrade the state’s electric grid and adjust rate mechanisms.

SB 190, filed by Sen. Ed Emery, and HB 628, sponsored by Rep. Rocky Miller, both seek to implement these changes, albeit in different ways. Opponents are concerned the costs of updating the state infrastructure would place undue burdens on customers. Some have even called it a “tax increase.”

But the proposed pieces of legislation have now received a boost in their argument against such a claim.

Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, recently wrote a letter to the members of the Missouri General Assembly on the issue of whether the bills are tax increases.

“After reviewing this specific legislation and the December 29th fiscal note from the Committee on Legislative Research, Americans for Tax Reform concluded that this regulatory reform is not a tax increase,” he wrote. “Should this draft legislation become law, no revenue resulting from new taxes or tax increases will flow to any government entity in Missouri. No government program will be funded as a result.”

The ATR has not taken a stance on the issue but rather stated that their intent was to weigh in on whether SB 190 and HB 628 are in fact tax increases.

Here is the full letter: ATR Letter on MO SB 190

Dear Members of the Missouri Legislature,

I write today in response to an inquiry regarding the impact of Senate Bill 190 and its companion House Bill 628. This legislation allows utility companies to begin recovering investment costs, once infrastructure investments are in service and being used by customers through the traditional rate review process. In recent years, legislators, affected businesses, and citizens have correctly been weighing the pros and cons associated with changing the timing of utilities’ cost-recovery charges.

Throughout this debate, many have questioned whether or not regulatory reform efforts similar to SB 190 and HB 628 represent tax increases. After reviewing this specific legislation and the December 29th fiscal note from the Committee on Legislative Research, Americans for Tax Reform concluded that this regulatory reform is not a tax increase.

Should this draft legislation become law, no revenue resulting from new taxes or tax increases will flow to any government entity in Missouri. No government program will be funded as a result. As such, ATR remains neutral on the passage of the law.

Please look to ATR to continue to be a resource on tax, budget, energy, and other policy matters pending before you. If you have any questions, please contact Paul Blair, ATR’s strategic initiatives director, at (202) 785-0266 or pblair@atr.org.

Sincerely,
Grover Norquist
President

Miller’s bill awaits further actions after being second read in the House in mid-January, while Emery’s SB 190 was passed out of the Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee Wednesday. It now heads to the Senate for a third reading.

When asked if he thought the bill would be able to pass out of the Senate, Emery said that wasn’t an easy question, knowing some of the opposition that has already appeared from other senators.

“Anytime a senator has opposition, we have to deal with that. It’s going to be a question of just how well we can work with the Senate as a whole to draw us to the place where we have enough senators that see the value of this and can have an impact on their colleagues,” Emery said. “The Senate is not an easy place to get anything through, and certainly utility legislation is one of the harder items because of its complexity.”

But Emery says the timing to pass SB 190 is right, citing the fact that the state infrastructure is rapidly falling behind, and the low cost of debt right now. Emery hopes to see it through as soon as possible, as he says prolonging the upgrades will just make the eventual cost rise.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.