How Much Does Bad Legislation Cost?
For the next 12 months, the answer to that question is: just under $1 per month, for each of our member-owners. You’ll start seeing the “MI Low Energy Fund” surcharge on this month’s bills, and it will be there through next August.
Here’s why: the Low Income Energy Assistance Fund was created by 2013 legislation that asked all Michigan electric utilities to charge their customers up to $1 per month each. What made this legislation “bad” is that instead of funding it from the general budget, only energy providers that meter their service were included, and even then it was made optional.
Here at HomeWorks, we took a close look at the program and felt that money should stay here in mid-Michigan with you, our member-owners. Our customer service representatives worked hard to help members in need use the 2-1-1 services to get heating assistance, and the Tri-County Electric People Fund was able to help some families in dire straits.
Our write-offs for bad debt didn’t increase by much, and we calculate that we saved you about $750,000 over three years of opting out.
On June 26, your board held a Special Open Member Meeting to consider opting out again for the 2017-2018 heating season. On staff’s recommendations, they voted to opt out for the fourth year in a row. But after the vote, we received new information from the state.
Because of federal budget cuts and other issues, they told us, if we opted out our members would not be able to get any state or federally-funded help with their heating bills. Your board and staff were not comfortable with leaving any of our members without that safety net, and the board rescinded its vote on June 29.
We are now opted in to the program for the coming year, and each of us will help fund it with the monthly surcharge. We’ll take another look at the options after this heating season to see what will work best for you and your cooperative.
Mark Kappler, General Manager
September, 2017 Michigan Country Lines