Opinion | Fed tax cut will benefit Michigan utility customers

Rachael Eubanks is a commissioner with the Michigan Public Service Commission.

To make sound decisions, government bodies allow ample time for outside input and thoughtful deliberations. At times, it appears reaching a consensus moves very slowly.

That makes the Michigan Public Service Commission’s extraordinary efforts in response to the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act even more noteworthy. The Commission acted quickly to bring maximum utility bill relief to Michigan customers after the lower corporate tax rates took effect at the start of this year.

My colleagues and I at the Commission were adamant that if utilities are going to benefit from a corporate tax rate that fell from 35 percent to 21 percent, then their customers should benefit, too, and as soon as possible without sacrificing the Commission’s core principles of accuracy and opportunity for stakeholder input.

In the first phase of calculations, which is now complete, the Commission approved $379.5 million in rate relief for customers of investor-owned utilities statewide. So far in the second phase of our three-step process, more cuts totaling nearly $7.8 million have been OK’d for customers of six investor-owned utilities.

The tax savings have resulted in lower gas and electric bills for residential and business customers of the utilities the Commission regulates, such as DTE Energy Co. and Consumers Energy Co., with the average savings for a residential customer of $1.93 a month. Some customers have seen the impact on their bills since July, just 90 days after utilities were told to make their first filings with the MPSC.

The MPSC’s process has been an exemplary example of government being proactive in the public interest. Our staff had been tracking the tax legislation as it developed on Capitol Hill late last year. By the time the President and Congress reached an agreement last December, the Commission had already designed a plan of action.

To prepare the cases for Commission votes, our staff reviewed every case filing for its impact on previously approved rate orders. They filed testimony, rebuttal testimony, initial briefs, reply briefs, and participated in cross examination of expert witnesses. Staff also participated in numerous other meetings with utilities and intervening parties.

The thorough work our staff has done – in conjunction with utilities and other stakeholders, and with input from the public – has been truly impressive, especially given the expedited deadlines the Commission set to bring timely rate relief to Michigan residents and businesses.

There is more ahead to take advantage of additional savings in addition to the reductions that have already been announced. In the coming months, expect more news on further bill reductions from savings on long-term business expenses such as excess deferred taxes.

The MPSC’s mission is to ensure safe and reliable utility services at reasonable rates for Michigan’s residents. The Commission’s timely action to lower rates to make sure the benefits of the tax law changes flow in a timely manner to customers is just one way the MPSC looks out for the public interest.

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Tue, 10/16/2018 - 11:49am

Let's see
Hundreds of millions in tax savings to for profit, dividend dispersing energy companies
These same companies that ask for rate hikes throughout the year whenever they have any kind of expenditures
MPSC always grants them but can claim they only allowed a certain amount which the companies asking for knew ahead of time so they tend to ask for double or more of what they really wanted or needed - so easy
Meanwhile the monopolized customers of the energy companies see a savings of $2
All is well according to the opinion of the Bridges guest Trumplican

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 12:07pm

I see no material decrease in my bills, based on a review of my Consumers payment history, and allowing for weather and resulting energy usage. If Consumers has lowered my rate, the benefit to me is imperceptible. (Tried checking DTE. Its web site just "clocks" following my attempt to log in, as usual.)

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 12:39pm

Thanks? This is the PSC’s job... we paid the taxes so yeahh, glad we got the refund for the difference after the corporate rate changed to 21%.

Charles Buck
Tue, 10/16/2018 - 12:59pm

Our electric utilities suffer from a pothole-scale problem: delinquent tree trimming along power lines as the forest returns to Michigan. Our state has two of the least reliable utilities in the country. When the wind blows the power goes out, sometimes for days for thousands during the holidays. MPSC missed a made to order opportunity to direct much needed additional resources to boost tree trimming to get back on top of the issue.

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 2:12pm

In 2016 MPSC granted DTE a FLAT $ 8.00 increased to all customers.To build a coalplant
in 4 years??????
customers using less then 300 kWh "only pay $ 33.00 a months.Ha ha ha,
taken off $ 1.93 ..when adding on a NEW $ 0.95 charge..in 2018

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 4:29pm

$1.93 per month? Compared to how many millions for the corporate execs?

Kathi Geukes
Wed, 10/17/2018 - 2:49pm

Seriously?? $1.93?? Then why did my budget amount go up $20.00 a month?? How about Consumers Energy stops screwing their customers and actually give us a rate DECREASE?? As it is my Budget amount per month is 293.00!!!! For a 1600 sq. ft. house......just to watch tee vee and use my computer......Why is it that we pay some of the highest energy bills in the whole damn country?? I'll tell you why...because the people who run the conglomerate that is Consumers are greedy as hell!! That's why!!!

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 7:48pm

hi.kathi save 1/3 of your electric bill get surprotectors...all around your house .anything electric except the Icebox..save 1/3
Due forces a person to pay "there monthly rate' WHEN I DONOT USED THAT A MOUNT ON MY MONTHLY KWH .ripped off

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 5:03pm

just to let you know That CUT didnot make it to my bill in DEC,2018 just the opposite is true. increases in "service' and increase in KWH....
senior in waiting?