The Corner

CT Conservative Leads One-Man Battle against ‘Sneaky Tax’

Joe Markley, a friend and NR subscriber, is a rare Connecticut state senator: He’s a conservative Republican who actually believes in fighting government efforts to pick the pockets of taxpayers. Yesterday, Joe was engaged in that fight at a session of the state Supreme Court, where he argued his case against the Department of Utility Control and a proposed extension of the “competitive transmission assessment,” which is bureaucratese for a tax (a video that captures the essence of this fight can be seen here).

Here’s the background: This assessment is included in the monthly bills of customers of the state’s two electricity behemoths, Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating. It was imposed during the deregulation that occurred in the ’90s, to bankroll the utilities’ transition into the new deregulated market. It was set to expire last year.

But like the telephone excise tax created to fund the Spanish-American War, fees and assessments have a way of surviving expiration dates. The DPUC has been tasked with extending the assessment to cover over $650 million in “Economic Recovery Notes” bonding approved in 2010 by the legislature to balance the state’s budget.

Markley calls it a “sneaky tax” and a “hypocritical continuance of high electrical rates,” and argues that the DPUC has no authority to administer a tax. Concurring, the president of Connecticut Light and Power called the assessment-extension “a blatant gimmick” which “slips additional taxes into electric bills to temporarily plug a massive budget hole.” Who will pay? Yes, homeowners, but especially the state’s largest energy consumers — municipalities and small businesses. This should push a number of teetering ones over the edge.

Granted, this is a local matter, but across the fruited plains, it should do all of us a little good, and maybe inspire a bit, to know that even in the liberal Mordor of Connecticut, there are determined conservatives like Joe Markley who fight on behalf of conservative principles.

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