Former State Senator Joe Markley of Southington filed a lawsuit last week challenging the Department of Public Utility Control’s ability to continue to collect a portion of consumers’ electrical bills to pay off the $989 million Economic Recovery Notes the state legislature borrowed to help balance the state budget.
Markley, who is running again this year for his old state senate seat, filed a Writ of Mandamus against the DPUC claiming its continuance of the charge is an inappropriate use of its power and “a terrible precedent.”
“It’s a hypocritical continuance of high electrical rates,” Markley said Wednesday outside New Britain Superior Court. He said the Competitive Transition Assessment, a charge on consumers electrical bills to help the utilities through deregulation in 1998, has become an additional tax on everyone’s electrical bill that would have disappeared if they hadn’t extended it.
The DPUC declined comment on the lawsuit saying it’s their policy not to comment on pending litigation and lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic party refused to comment on the lawsuit.
“If they had done nothing, it would have lowered our bill $6 or $7 a month. Instead they saw a chance to grab a tax and the only reason they seized on this was the hope that nobody would notice,” Markley said.
However, Markley is not suing the legislature or Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who signed the budget, which included this provision.
“The legislature has mandated that the DPUC impose this tax, but in fact they do not have the authority to do so,“ Markley opined. “ As I state in the writ filed this morning, the statutes governing the DPUC limit its authority to ‘rates and charges, services, accounting practices, safety and the conduct of operations generally.’ It is not a taxing body, and we must not allow it to become one.”
Markley has asked the court to halt imposition of the tax until final disposition of his challenge.
Markley filed the lawsuit without the help of an attorney.
Back in May when the plan to continue the Competitive Transition Assessment was finalized lawmakers said ratepayers will still see that charge go down by an average of $2.47 per month. The average monthly charge is currently about $7.50 per month for customers of the two largest utilities in the state.
Asked if this lawsuit amounts to sour grapes or political posturing, Markley said “ There was opposition to it at the time it was in the legislature. But there was not the kind of public outcry there would have been if it was a more obvious tax. This is again the sneaky aspect of this.”
He said the legislature consciously picked something people wouldn’t notice. In fact, Markley argued there are people who still don’t understand what they’ve done.
“They snuck this tax by us,” Markley added.
A hearing has been scheduled in the matter after the Election.