Tax Reform Bill Will Probably Mean Lower Utility Bills for Many North Dakotans

News Tribune

Here’s some interesting news from the Public Service Commission. News which undermines the talking points we’ve been getting from the left about how Republican-backed tax reform won’t help the average citizen.

Regulators will be making a decision today on whether or not to investigate the potential impact of tax reform legislation passed just before the holidays on utility rates paid by North Dakotans. It’s a near certainty that they’ll proceed with the review, and that the review will likely result in lower prices for rate payers.

But don’t take my word for it. That’s what the utility companies themselves are saying:

If the commission moves forward with the investigation, it would ask four utilities for information on how the tax cut affects their finances: Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., Great Plains Natural Gas Co., Otter Tail Power Co. and Xcel Energy.

“We are currently analyzing the impact of the tax changes on the cost of service to our customers, and are committed to ensuring that customers benefit from the new tax law,” Xcel Energy said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the PSC to participate in their proceeding examining the issue and any effects the law may have on rates.”

Otter Tail spokeswoman Cris Oehler said the company is working with commission staff on adjusting a rate increase it requested in November, before the tax legislation passed.

“The savings go to customers, but … how and when does that take place is the question,” she said.

The rates utility companies can charge must be approved by the Public Service Commission. In that process the utilities must justify their rates to regulators by providing information about their costs. Among those costs, of course, are the taxes they must pay.

The tax reform passed in Congress late last year – voted for by Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer but opposed by Senator Heidi Heitkamp – significantly lowered tax burdens for businesses. Including utilities.

North Dakota isn’t the only place this happy news is unfolding.

Over at Americans for Tax Reform they’re keeping a list of companies passing on savings from tax reform to their employees and customers. Included on that list are utilities in other parts of the country using tax savings to lower utility costs.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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