First of all, credit where credit is due, Bill Duvall got me thinking about this topic with his post this morning. He was looking at it through the prism of this being Jim Mathias’s possible one-day term in session.
But I’m looking at it for several other reasons. First of all, it shows us where the true interest lies in Maryland government, and it’s not here. Delmarva Power is raising rates 35 percent? Well, that’s the Eastern Shore, who cares? I rent out that Ocean City condo anyway so I’ll raise the rent another $50 a week.
I looked up on BG&E’s website where their service area is. According to their service map, they have operations in 10 Maryland counties, but predominate in 6 – Baltimore City/County, Carroll, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Harford. Looking further, I coordinated those counties with the Maryland General Assembly districts and found that about 63 Delegates and 21 Senators would likely be within the service area. That’s about 2/5 of the General Assembly, and surprisingly to me, it’s not a huge Democrat majority in the House of Delegates (37 to 26.) But in the Maryland Senate those 21 seats split 15-6 Democrat. As it turned out, 13 of the 15 Republicans in the House of Delegates and 2 of the 3 GOP Senators voting for the new deal live in these areas. The exceptions were RINO Delegate Jean Cryor of Montgomery County, our own Delegate Page Elmore (why, Page, why?), and Senator E.J. Pipkin of Queen Anne’s County (a strong anti-BG&E advocate.)
Now you know damn well that the Democrats in Annapolis aren’t going to let Bob Ehrlich take credit for anything. Because the General Assembly couldn’t solve this issue in April, the negotiations that took place changed the proposed 72% rate hike to a more tolerable 21% and deferred payments over the next two years. However, a customer could opt out if he or she chose to swallow the whole increase.
Enter Baltimore mayor and gubernatorial candidate Martin O’Malley. He decided to gamble on getting a special session, and hopefully a deal that Democrats (and his campaign) could crow about. The city sued to stop this increase and forced the special session.
According to the Baltimore Sun, these were the opt-in/opt-out plans previously on the table (notice there was an option):
Opt-in plan (negotiated by Governor Ehrlich and the PSC): July increase of 19.4 percent, customers phased into market rates over 18 months with no more than a 25% increase at one time, a $19 per month fee that would run July 2007-June 2009, and no interest on deferred costs.
Opt-out plan: July increase of 21 percent, remaining 50% or so deferred to February 2007. Payments on deferred costs would start in March 2007, with a 5% interest rate until payoff (about 15 months).
The new plan goes like this: July increase of 15 percent, with remaining increase as early as June, 2007. Instead of the deferred cost being spread out over 15 months, it’s now going to be spread over 120 months, including interest. And for BG&E customers who read this from my fellow MBA members’ links – you are stuck with this deal.
So Martin O’Malley’s gamble got BG&E customers (and only those customers, must be all he cared about) a 6% difference in rates, but almost 9 more years of interest charges in paying the deferral off. For the rest of us, it got a brand new PSC because this measure usurped the role of the executive branch in selecting members and placed it in the hands of the General Assembly – a nice naked power grab.
Oh, and if the governor wants to take this mess to court himself, it’s mandated the case be heard in Baltimore City. There’s some real Ehrlich-friendly judges there. Of course, that has to be done gratis anyway, because also in the bill is a provision forbidding state funds be spent on a challenge!
It’s no surprise then that both the Democrats running for governor are patting their own backs until their arm falls off. Martin O’Malley beams that it was his lawsuit that has saved the day for Maryland consumers, while Doug Duncan gushed, “I urge you once again, as you did with the medical malpractice crisis, to work together to craft a short-term solution that will relieve the fears of Marylanders and build a foundation for a long-term solution to this issue.”
And Duncan is more right than he might know, it is a short-term solution. It keeps the wrath of the voters from falling on the Democrats’ precious majority. All they give a crap about is keeping enough seats in the General Assembly to thwart any Ehrlich actions if he’s re-elected. If Governor Ehrlich is defeated, the refrain of “Happy Days Are Here Again” will echo through Annapolis as the four-year nightmare of a GOP governorship will come to an end, and the redistribution of wealth to build power can recommence posthaste. Well, they would have to wait until January. Minor detail, and besides, why should Democrats follow the Maryland Consitution then? It’s a poor precedent!
Some shoppers buy their Christmas presents in the summer. With their vote this week, the Democrats in Annapolis wanted to assure their Christmas comes on November 8th, when they can gleefully revel in the words of Mike Miller, “(the GOP is) going to be flying high, but we’re going to get together and we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to put them in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again.”
You ain’t burying my ass, buddy. It’s time to fight.