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As Long as We Remember...

June 7, 2007

Lessons by the Wayside

Chris Cavey

With the magic date of June 1, 2007, just past, the cost of electric energy in Maryland is back to the reality of the market place. Gone are the days of artificial prices, created by the Democrat leadership of the 1999 General Assembly and requested by then Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

These past eight years should have taught several lessons to a few groups of people.

First, everyone should have learned that try as you might the economic forces in the market place always find its own level in our capitalist-driven economy. Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, and all of the then Democrat leadership, could not control what is driven by the wants and demands of our society.

If the economics of time mathematically calculates that we need a 72% adjustment in electric rates to bring us back to reality, well, what did you expect? Regardless, if this method of catch-up was the "Ehrlich Plan," then easing into correct adjustments, or the current path, was chosen for you by the 2006 Democrats in our legislature when they overrode Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's veto. You now have received a jolt into 2007 market price reality.

Next, deregulation of any utility has not ever saved the consumer anything. Those of us who can remember a simpler time - when the Baltimore Gas & Electric was the power company and C&P Telephone was the phone company - know that service was great and costs were reasonable. Where are my savings from the "competition" that deregulation was to have spawned?

If the General Assembly truly wanted to save consumers' money, it would consider stabilizing the tax on gasoline and other petroleum products. Taxes and government spending are something the legislature can completely control without other regulatory bodies.

Why don't we deregulate the membership of the Maryland General Assembly into a two-party system? It is currently a Democrat monopoly that should be deregulated. Perhaps this will save the consumer a few dollars.

Next, the Public Service Commission (PSC) of 1999 is to blame for letting this happen. All of its members were Democrat Glendening's appointees, some who predicted what would happen in 2007.

The Ehrlich PSC, on the other hand, was stuck with regulating a deal it had no control over. By the time it was in its hands, the utilities were ready to catch up to true market prices and so were their stockholders. The freight train was rolling full steam, heading down the tracks toward rate increases.

The current O'Malley PSC owned up to the fact that they were powerless to stop what had been prescribed by the 1999 law. Good for them! It might have tried to save face; but it knew its limitations and eventually admitted it.

Last, if you want to be upset, look to Gov. Martin O'Malley. Shame on him for making promises (still on his website) that he would not let this second (June 1, 2007) rate action happen. Shame on him for convincing you that he could change what was prescribed in the law of 1999.

He now tells us that the "Ehrlich mess" could not be halted. He points blame on his previous adversary and the Ehrlich PSC. Shame on him. The governor needs to "man-up" and tell the truth that not he - nor anyone else - could halt the culmination of the rate adjustments.

The public should go back to the beginning and send the lynch mob after those who sold us this bill of goods in 1999. Governor O'Malley is not responsible for rate increases; but he is responsible for the personal immorality of taking advantage of a bad situation, one he forced onto the consumer by promising to fix something he knew could not be fixed, and for trying to push the blame on those who should be blameless.

We'll just chalk this episode up to a couple of mistakes by a rookie governor - lack of leadership and responsibility in time of public distress.

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