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Ray's Round Up: PPL Customers Avoid Increase to Utility Bill, Legislators Avoid Resolution on State Budget


It’s all about the purse strings this week – with the main focus being on Pennsylvanians’ out-of-pocket utility bills and, on a more global scale, Pennsylvania’s state budget.

While AARP PA is happy to announce a resolution to a rate case that would have affected PPL consumers’ utility bills, there’s no resolution in sight on Pennsylvania’s state budget which could result in a loss of services across the Commonwealth.

PPL Electric Consumers benefit from Rate Case Settlement

On September 4 th, a settlement was finally reached on a utility rate case. This settlement will mean that 1.4 million PPL customers will avoid a $6 per month increase in their electric bill.

Earlier this year, PPL Electric applied to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for an increase in its fixed customer charge from $14 to $20 per month, along with other adjustments in its billing.  The fixed customer charge is the amount every customer pays in order to have electricity in their home.  For lower-income customers and those who don’t use a lot of electricity, this is an especially difficult part of the monthly bill because there is no way to conserve and lower your charges.

When AARP Pennsylvania heard about PPL’s request to increase its charges, staff and volunteers worked hard to demonstrate the negative impact this increase could have on many Pennsylanians. AARP Volunteers Gaylord Costen & Carolyn Knauss joined consumers at PUC public hearings in Harrisburg and Allentown to testify against the proposed increase in the customer charge.

Ultimately, a settlement of the case was reached, with PPL dropping its request for any increase in the fixed customer charge.  The settlement has been agreed to by PPL and the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, which represented consumers in the formal intervention in the case.  It awaits final approval by the Public Utility Commission.

General Assembly preparing to act on stop-gap budget measure

As Pennsylvania moves into its third month without an approved budget, concerns continue to grow about whether many state-funded services can continue to be offered.  Although state workers continue to be paid and state offices remain open, non-governmental organizations that rely on state funding to provide services are not receiving state funds.  Already we have seen some senior centers cut back on hours, day care centers forced to take out short-term loans just to stay in business, and teachers in one Delaware County school district have agreed to work without pay in order to keep the schools open.

If the talks between the Governor and legislative leaders continue to show little progress over the next week, the General Assembly may act on legislation that would fund state services at last year’s funding levels for a short period of time.  This stop-gap measure would still need to be approved by the Governor and it is unknown at this point if Governor Wolf would approve such a plan.  Such a measure would get some funding to organizations that desperately need it, but at a level that may not be sufficient to account for increases in costs.  One concern is that it could remove the sense of urgency to come to an agreement on a final state budget.

Neither the General Assembly nor the Governor wants to put their views at a disadvantage as they continue to negotiate a state budget.  The fate of a stop-gap spending plan will depend on either side’s perception of “losing” if such a plan is enacted.  Unfortunately, the only ones who are really losing are Pennsylvanians who no longer have access to services because a state budget has not yet been approved.   Although this is touching relatively few lives right now, the longer this situation lasts, the more likely we are to see cutbacks in programs such as Adult Day Services, after-school programs, or municipal services like road repairs.  And we don’t want to imagine what might happen if we don’t have a state budget when snow begins to fall…..

“Ray’s Round Up” features updates on current state and federal issues by Ray Landis, AARP PA’s Advocacy Manager.

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