JEFFERSON CITY — I am, and always have been in favor of a “special economic development electric rate” for reopening of the New Madrid smelter and/or a new steel mill in New Madrid. Interestingly – two years ago, we worked hard to help NORANDA receive approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) for an industrial electric rate discount, only to have Ameren (their supplier) and other legislators in the Senate to oppose the filing.
There are many different types of incentives used all across Missouri to attract and/or retain jobs, including payroll tax reimbursements to employers for creating and retaining a certain number of jobs. There are other incentives such as real estate and personal property tax subsidies.
The main difference with electric legislation, such as Senate Bill 190, is that it negatively changes oversight by the PSC for decades. The newly added amendment, contained in Senate Bill 302, would give the PSC the ability to use any alternative rate making mechanism even if it is not allowed under current law. This could lead to unnecessary rate increases, and absolutely has nothing to do with reopening the smelter or a steel mill in New Madrid. All it would do is benefit the utility company. This would leave businesses and families vulnerable to monopoly utilities, such as Ameren.
This is my 5th year in the Missouri Senate opposing unfair electric utility legislation that would severely diminish the PSC’s authority in defending all electric ratepayers. I take seriously my responsibility to the citizens of my district, and everyone across this state, to safeguard them from being overcharged by utility companies.
Ratepayers have no choice when it comes to their electric provider. If this amendment did not have this sweeping deterioration of PSC scrutiny, and only had language that actually helped New Madrid, I would have been an enthusiastic supporter.
I am very concerned about the jobs we lost when NORANDA discontinued operations. Our country’s trade laws have allowed cheap imports to infiltrate our borders destroying many of our good paying jobs and blue-chip manufacturing companies. We cannot now allow monopoly electric companies to control legislation that could put our remaining job providers out of business with unreasonable electric charges.
Missouri manufacturers are allowed to request a lower electric rate by directly petitioning the PSC without pursuing legislation. Perhaps, the Department of Economic Development failed to inform the New Madrid city and county officials of this opportunity.
We need to continue being vigilant in our pursuit of attracting more companies to our region by networking our message of the advantages of being located here.
It is unfortunate that the representative from the 149th District did not make me aware of his amendments to Senate Bill 302 earlier in session – rather than surprising us in the Senate just one day before the end of session. We could have spent several weeks working together to find a solution to help with the electric rate, and to discuss other possible opportunities to reopen the New Madrid smelter site and possible steel mill.
P.S. It was widely reported that I filibustered Senate Bill 124 on the last day of session. That is false. Senate Bill 124 with the amendments attached, never came to the floor of the Senate.