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Politics FLX: Rate hikes would be another blow to region

It’s been widely reported throughout the state that New York State Electric and Gas is working to achieve a rate hike, which will be felt in the average consumer’s bill next month.The rate hike is composed of a multi-year plan, which will raise rates by 16 percent for electricity and 19 percent for gas delivery over the next three years. In terms of how much that will cost the average user – the numbers look like this:Electric delivery charges will rise from $36.62 to $43.37 – while gas delivery charges will increase from $51.52 to $61.09 over the next three years. Those numbers, though, only reflect the “average” customer. For those with “above-average” bills, the increase would be seen and felt even more dramatically. A $200 bill could see an increase of $50 or more per month when the increases are enacted.Those who have historically paid more for gas and electric delivery in New York, will certainly be hit harder by the rate hike over that period. The increase will be introduced slowly, if approved by regulators over the next three years – beginning in June.The problem?It’s another mark against living, working, or starting a business in New York State. While legislators and small business owners have their hands full worrying about what minimum wage mandates will be created over the next several years – the latest cost could be even more crippling than the other increases. Why is that? Businesses and people can plan for a higher minimum wage. If they are a person, they can proactively look at options to seek out employment should their current employer be hit hard by a larger, state mandated minimum wage. They likely already know how their employer will be impacted by a higher minimum wage.Business owners have not been bashful about their disdain for an increased minimum wage.What’s more difficult to plan for, though, is a worse-than-expected winter – which always is a driving factor in determining the cost of utilities. Colder-than-normal winter means residents will spend more money heating their homes. Warmer-than-normal winter, like the one we just lived through here in Upstate New York and the Finger Lakes means residents spend significantly less.Neither can really be planned. They either happen or do not, which is precisely why this rate increase could be so paralyzing. For example, if rates increase a third of what they are expected to overall by the time this winter rolls around, and it is a colder-than-normal season – then the rate hike will be felt even more than it would have ordinarily. The same goes if we have another warmer-than-normal winter next year, lulling residents into an even bigger false sense of security when it comes to energy rates.It’s economic forecasting at its most-difficult in New York. It would seem that the timing, with many business owners focused on other issues – that this is an attempt at moving something through the regulatory process, which otherwise would be met with harsh criticism.FLX Politics is a weekly feature, which takes a critical look at policy issues in the Finger Lakes. He is the Lead News Editor at FingerLakes1.com and can be reached at josh@fingerlakes1.com.

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