While a great deal of lip service will be paid to what’s in the best interests of Mississippi public utility ratepayers when Mississippi lawmakers return in special session later this week, the fact is that the Legislature’s failure to pass a budget for the Public Service Commission could not be less about the interests of those ratepayers.
What the standoff is about is partisan politics – and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can make any claim whatsoever to the moral high ground.
Despite a $400 million state revenue shortfall and substantial across-the-board budget cuts throughout state government in 2009 and with more looming in 2010, Mississippi’s elected public service commissioners say they need additional staff – staff members who can readily analyze complex utility rate data and highly technical utility company audits.
By virtue of retirements and resignations, the current PSC isn’t the most experienced group in state history. Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley, D-Nettleton, is new on the job as is PSC chairman and Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey, D-Union Church. Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz has about three years of experience.
But all three are capable, intelligent and honorable men. Posey has substantial experience as a former state senator who formerly chaired the Senate Public Utilities Committee.