WMC: Industry and Consumer Groups Oppose $53 million Public Benefits Raid

R.J. Pirlot, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce: (608) 258-3400
Nino Amato, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group: (608) 441-5740
Charlie Higley, Citizens Utility Board: (608) 251-3322, ext. 14
Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin: (608) 255-4044

Pat Schillinger: Wisconsin Paper Council: (920) 722-1500

MADISON – Wisconsin’s major energy consumers are opposing Governor Jim Doyle’s transfer of $53 million in utility ratepayer funds to general government spending, the groups announced Thursday.

“Transferring $53 million in ratepayer dollars, from funds that are supposed to be set aside for conservation, efficiency and renewable resources and putting it into general government spending, is essentially a hidden tax increase,” said R.J. Pirlot, director of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, Citizens Utility Board, RENEW Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Paper Council all told the Joint Finance Committee to stop Doyle’s proposed diversion from the fund.

“That fund is set aside to promote energy conservation measures and to encourage efficiency,” said Charlie Higley, of CUB. “Cuts from this fund will expose the Wisconsin economy to price shocks caused by rising prices for fossil fuels.”

Nino Amato, of WIEG, said industrial ratepayers will see higher rates if this diversion is allowed to occur.

“This is bad energy policy and bad fiscal policy. If the Governor and the state legislature can raid the fund for $53 million now, what will stop them from raiding it again and again until all the ratepayers’ money is gone? It’s clear that the ratepayers’ money is being diverted as a budgetary shell game to cover the billion dollar deficit they created,” Amato said.

The groups told the Joint Finance Committee that reforms are needed to stop future raids:

· Specifying the Public Benefits Fund is for energy conservation, efficiency, and renewable resources.
· Specifying that the energy conservation and efficiency and renewable resources portion of the Public Benefits Fund, including any net worth of the Public Benefits Fund, is held in “irrevocable trust” for the sole benefit of electric ratepayers in the State of Wisconsin.
Specifying that any moneys in the Public Benefits Fund may not be used for any other purpose of the state.