Archive for Thursday, January 18, 2018

Kansas utilities say they’ll pass on tax-cut savings to customers

January 18, 2018


— Gas and electric utility customers in Kansas may soon be paying lower rates as a result of the recently enacted federal tax cuts, according to state utility regulators.

The Kansas Corporation Commission announced Thursday that it had agreed to open a general investigation into the impact those tax cuts will have on public utilities.

As part of the investigation, the commission issued an order that utilities track all savings from the tax cuts and maintain those funds in a separate interest-bearing regulatory account.

Starting Jan. 1, the controversial tax cuts that Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law in December lowered the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, a change that is likely to produce a windfall for many corporations, including public utilities.

The move by the KCC came after three major utilities — Westar Energy, Kansas City Power and Light and Black Hills Energy — all announced that they intended to seek regulatory approval to lower their rates as a result of the tax cuts.

Topeka-based Westar Energy is an electric utility that serves much of Kansas, including customers in Lawrence. Black Hills Energy is a natural gas utility that serves 65 communities in Kansas, including Lawrence.

KCP&L provides electrical service primarily to customers in the Kansas City metropolitan area on both sides of the state line.

The issue of how utilities would handle their windfall from the tax cuts had already become a political issue in this year's campaign for governor. Both Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, and state Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, had issued statements earlier calling on utilities to return the benefits of the tax cuts to ratepayers, many of whom will soon be hit with big heating bills as a result of the recent cold snap.

But it was Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer who claimed credit Thursday for the decisions, saying they came in response to letters he had sent to the companies earlier in the week.

“I am extremely encouraged by the response my letter has received from the Kansas utility community," Colyer said in a news release. "Black Hills Energy, KCP&L and Westar understand, just as I do, how much energy costs affect every household in Kansas.

The statements from the utility companies, however, were less emphatic.

Black Hills said it first began discussions with the KCC about the impact of the tax cuts last year, as the tax bill was still being debated in Congress. Westar and KCP&L also said they had been holding discussions with KCC staff.

Ward, meanwhile, said in an interview that he didn't know what prompted the companies to make their decisions.

"I can't read their minds, but I was happy to put any political pressure I could because I thought it was the right thing to do," he said.

KCP&L said the federal tax cuts would save that company an estimated $100 million a year, of which about $35 million is allocated to Kansas customers. Westar anticipates it will save about $65 million a year from the tax cuts.

Both electric companies said they intend to pass the full amount of the tax savings along to customers.

Black Hills did not say how much it anticipates saving or how much of that savings it plans to pass on to customers.

Estimates were not available Thursday about how those rate cuts would affect individual customers.

In Kansas, public utilities must get permission from the KCC to alter their rates, regardless of whether it's an increase or a decrease.

KCC spokeswoman Linda Berry said in a phone interview that the commission was charged with ensuring that rates were reasonable and sufficient to ensure that utilities could provide reliable service to their customers.


David Holroyd 3 months ago

APS in Arizona already announced cuts.

Sam Crow 3 months ago

It is another horrible day for Lawrence liberals.

Ken Lassman 3 months ago

To equate reimbursing cost savings to utility customers a "liberal bad day" is like equating having a neo-nazi rally to a "conservative good day." Both labels are inappropriately applied by the opposition to the other side, and both ignore the much more nuanced realities.

Despite our president's inappropriate fumble on criticizing Charlottesville's Unite the Right events, I don't think it's appropriate to generalize such tacit approval to conservatives in general, who, like pretty much everyone in our country, is appalled at the rise of neofacist elements of any kind. In exactly the same way, to say that passing on cost savings to utility consumers or any other fiscally responsible policies is counter to liberal tendencies is a complete overreach, as there is a vast majority of the liberal persuasion who also believe in and practice the principles of fiscally responsible behavior.

And to head off any anecdotal lists of fiscally irresponsible behaviors by liberals, be prepared to get back a long list of pet projects, debt deepening actions, etc. by conservatives that would follow. As with so many other federal (or state or local) government sins, both "sides" have their feet secured in the mud, and like so many other topics, fiscal responsibility and reforms need to be bipartisan in nature lest the divides grow larger.

Bob Summers 3 months ago

Why should Liberals benefit? They are against tax cuts.

Liberals should continue to pay higher rates.

The electric company can use the funds for the poor.

Ken Lassman 3 months ago

Actually, the "liberals" (and many "conservatives" for that matter) that I know think that utility monopolies should be provided the opportunity to make money from their customers CUTTING BACK their consumption through energy conservation and efficiency programs. All too often such programs are counter-intuitive for a business whose publicly-mandated margins are threatened by having customers use less electricity. States whose utilities offer more aggressive conservation programs have been rewarded by reducing the number of power plants needed, by being able to utilize more scalable power sources such as wind and solar more, etc.

And renewables are a win-win situation. I don't know a conservative farmer who wouldn't be pleased with a wind turbine being placed on their land. It's way past time for you to chuck your overly simplistic view of reality, Bob and open your eyes as to what is actually going on.

Richard Neuschafer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Bob, do you really know what a liberal is? I doubt it. Liberals are not everyone who disagree with you. Shut the Limbaugh BS off and learn something worthwhile. Silence would be better than showing your ignorance whenever you post.

Gary Stussie 3 months ago

Oops! ZERO House or Senate Democrats voted for Tax Plan.

Watch DACA ... Democrats are scared to death that a Republican Congress and a Republican president may actually effect some reform of our flawed immigration system. They have pursued the Hispanic community vigorously for many years, seeking to solidify their support within the country’s fastest growing demographic.

Though nearly everyone supports protecting Dreamers against deportation, Republicans and the White House want to couple that with enhanced border security, to make sure that what some are calling “amnesty” does not result in great numbers of new people flooding in without permission.

Democrats are in a pickle. They can anger the nation by blocking a proposed spending resolution that lacks a DACA fix but that would fund our military and provide a six-year extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program. Or they can infuriate Hispanics by keeping the federal lights on and working to resolve the Dreamer problem as part of a broader immigration package.

Clear picture

Bob Smith 3 months ago

P, you can continue to pay the higher rates if you want to.

Ken Lassman 3 months ago

Note to thread: you are completely off-topic, in case you haven't noticed.

Bob Smith 3 months ago

Note to Ken: "....TOPEKA — Gas and electric utility customers in Kansas may soon be paying lower rates as a result of the recently enacted federal tax cuts, according to state utility regulators..." Do you even read, bro?

Ken Lassman 3 months ago

Yes, I do, Bob. I was referring to Gary and P. Allen's comments, not yours, Bob.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 months ago

If a person is only being paid $10/hr, are they really going to get excited if their electric bill goes down $10? They are still going to need help, or live without electricity.

Gary Stussie 3 months ago

Don't rain on the Trump Train Dorothy ... Big step in the right direction wouldn't you say!

Armen Kurdian 3 months ago

Say it's $10/month for electricity. $5/month for water. That's $15/month, $170 in a year. Probably will be more, but we'll see. For someone making minimum wage, that's 1% of their paycheck. At lower income levels that is tangible and real.

Of course, if you don't want it, you can always pay more.

If said person were getting a legislated increase in the minimum wage, you'd be all over it. OBTW, they'd pay taxes on those higher wages. These utility bill cuts are tax-free for the individual.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 months ago

Spoken by someone who has never been poor.

Gary Stussie 3 months ago

Dorothy ... just for you!

"Silly is not what a political opposition wants to look like. Yet, as we turn the page on President Trump’s first year in office, the dirigible of anti-Trumpism is assuming an amusingly deflated look."

Great quote!

Ken Lassman 3 months ago

The deflated dirigible image brings directly to mind what the Donald holds in his small hands, not the health of the anti-Trump movement, which is growing each day that he is in office. He has boosted exclusionary partisan politics to the level not reached in my lifetime, and such One Party Statism is counter to everything our country has ever stood for. The crows of Republicans about their back room tax break bill that was shoved through before it was even typed up in whole, with no hearings, is a disgrace to the democratic process. There was no reason for tax reforms to be crafted in this fashion--the "opposing" Democrats had expressed a willingness to do tax reforms as well, had they been provided a place at the table, but Trump's arbitrary political deadline precluded any chance of this happening: his "promise" to his base was more important to keep than the democratic process.

Thanks, but no thanks. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater....

Bob Summers 3 months ago

"The deflated dirigible image brings directly to mind what the Donald "

Thanks for the fantasy.

See. You congenital's are good at what you were born to do.


Ken Lassman 3 months ago

Yeah, you're always talking about congenitals--why is that, Bob? And we've already talked about your fantasy, Bob, which makes you the top liberal among liberals....

Bob Summers 3 months ago

"Yeah, you're always talking about congenitals--why is that, Bob"?


Genetic science.

Do not be ashamed of your being.

Without people like you, there would not be Hollywood.

Peace out

Ken Lassman 3 months ago

OK, Bob, I'll call you on that one (again). Show me the SCIENCE that says the DRD4 polymorphism DETERMINES behavior. Now go take your congenitals and play away in the privacy of your own home.

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