Strange that most of the clamor about electric rates in Connecticut is directed at the state’s electric utilities and so little at state government. For the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the state’s leading electric company, Eversource, agree that 15-20% of the typical Connecticut electricity customer’s monthly bill doesn’t pay for electric generation and transmission at all but for charges imposed by state law and policy. (Connecticut’s other major electric company, United Illuminating, did not reply to a request for its own estimate.)
While the charges imposed by state law and policy are collected by the electric utilities, they are ultimately paid out at the direction of state government, becoming a sort of state sales tax on a necessity of life.
Some of these charges are relevant to electricity or the security of its supply, like the charge that funds the subsidy paid to keep the Millstone nuclear power plant operating profitably. That arrangement was controversial, but Millstone, operated by Dominion Energy, provides half of Connecticut’s electricity and as much as 20% of New England’s.
But some charges on electric bills don’t arise from anything that is particularly the responsibility of electricity users — charges for environmental programs, subsidies for renewable energy projects, reimbursements to electric companies for customers who don’t pay their bills, and subsidies for purchase of electricity by the poor. These are public welfare expenses and would be more honest in the state budget.
Of course state government has a great incentive to hide its own costs in electric bills, since even if they are noticed they will be blamed on the electric companies. Meanwhile, fearful of more demagoguery by elected officials, electric companies decline to call attention to the huge part of bills that is effectively a sales tax.
These camouflaged costs of government are another reason why, despite the clamor about electric bills and the public’s resentment of electric companies, not even the farthest left elected official in Connecticut will propose a state government takeover of the electricity business. For when state government is also the electric company, there will be no way to transfer political responsibility for electricity costs and service outages.
Even so, the camouflaged costs should get much more attention, since Connecticut’s electric rates are close to the highest in the country and a big obstacle to attracting and keeping business, just as the state’s high taxes are.
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‘PASSPORT’ RACISM AHEAD?: Political correctness in Connecticut maintains as a matter of principle that any public policy that can be associated with racially disproportionate results is “systemic racism.” (Just don’t mention the racially disproportionate results of the state’s failing welfare and education policies, since most people comfortably employed implementing those policies are politically correct themselves.)
So Governor Lamont should watch out as he considers having state government create a sort of “vaccine passport” system by which businesses, employers, and state and local government agencies more easily might exclude people from participating in normal life if they have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
For according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of vaccination rates in Connecticut, while 68% of whites have been vaccinated, only 51% of Blacks and 58% of Hispanics have been, even as state government and social-service agencies are concentrating their vaccination campaigns on minority communities.
So under a “vaccine passport” system what will happen when it is noticed that members of racial minorities are excluded from normal life at much higher rates than whites?
Of course racism will not have been intended, but lack of bad intent has not excused all the other stuff denounced as “systemic racism.”
Will a “vaccine passport” system in Connecticut cause the politically correct to reconsider what they call “systemic racism” — to concede that some racial disproportions are innocent, a consequence less of policy than of the preferences, decisions, qualifications, or finances of individuals?
Or despite all the P.C. posturing he does to appease his party’s left while trying to preserve room for being moderate in policy, will the governor have to bear the “racist” label anyway?
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.