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You have to hand it to Kentucky Utilities.
During the worst economy in most of our lifetimes, the company that provides electricity to over 6,000 Anderson County homes and businesses boldly jutted out its chin and proposed a 13.7 percent rate increase for homeowners.
In terms of temerity, that would be on par with Tiger Woods borrowing his estranged wife’s computer to surf dating websites while on a visit to beg her to take him back.
Both are nearly unthinkable.
KU makes at least a modestly compelling case to raise its rates. Company officials say they haven’t been granted an increase since 2003 and that recent wind and ice storms have cost millions in repairs to poles and transmission lines. They also say employee costs continue to increase, and infrastructure investments need to be recaptured.
KU is a business, after all, and no business can survive without occasionally raising its prices.
But KU and the rest of the utility companies aren’t like other businesses because before they can raise their prices, the state’s Public Service Commission has to give its blessing.
While that system provides a degree of consumer protection, it also forces utility providers to shoot for the stars perchance to at least hit the moon.
KU needs a 13.7 percent rate increase about as badly as John Calipari needs another highly touted freshman on his roster. Needed or not, though, it’s as easy to envision Calipari sitting in the freshman’s living room making his pitch as it is KU doing the same before the commission.
You don’t get if you don’t ask, and that’s the American way.
Realistically, the chances of KU getting such a large rate increase aren’t nearly as good as Calipari landing said recruit. The commission, which actually turned the tables on KU in 2008 by forcing a lower rate when the company requested a higher one, isn’t blind. Socking customers with such a large increase would elicit a firestorm of criticism at a time when the public’s outrage at government and big business has reached a crescendo. For that you have only to blame the politics of class warfare so giddily practiced these days in Washington, D.C.
Instead, expect the commission to grant a much smaller increase and KU to be just fine as a result.
It’s a shame, though, that this cat-and-mouse game has to be played at all. Common business sense dictates that small, incremental increases on an annual or bi-annual basis allows companies to keep up with rising employee and equipment costs while allowing consumers a chance to budget accordingly.
Waiting years to implement those increases only means customers will be socked all at once, and their response will be to sock right back.
Especially when a company like KU so boldly sticks out its chin.
Comment at www.theandersonnews.com.