Massive utility companies are pressuring Florida taxpayers to fund relocation of power lines, poles and other equipment when important civic projects take place on publicly owned easements and rights of way.
There are only two possible outcomes from this money-grab: higher taxes or fewer public services. Neither choice is good, and the Florida Legislature should say NO to the utilities.
Last legislative session utilities almost won, and now they’re trying again. A bill already filed on this issue for the 2016 session would provide a financial benefit to utility companies while hurting taxpayers in the process.
The proposed legislation, SB 416 by Sen. Anitere Flores, requires city governments to fund relocating utility equipment for public projects that take place within public rights-of-way. If passed, local governments across Florida would be forced to hike taxes to pay for these projects. The only alternative would cut back services while the federal and state governments are already asking city taxpayers to provide more for local residents.
This legislative proposal could cost taxpayers millions — money utilities would simply pocket as additional profit while continuing to report net incomes in the billions. These profitable companies should have no trouble paying for utility relocation, especially since they reap the benefits of using public land.
Ultimately, this legislation would transfer costs from those who benefit from the service — the utilities’ customers — to every taxpayer, regardless of whether they use the service.
Gov. Rick Scott’s primary focus has been on providing jobs for Floridians. But how rewarding can a job be if the worker is being taxed to pay for unfunded legislation like this? I can only hope our lawmakers vote down this misguided proposal.
Jon Burgess, president, Miami-Dade County League of Cities, Homestead