Can anyone believe the price of our electricity bills? Over the past 20 years, my family and I have been gouged by the power companies and dishonest politicians. It has become a monthly struggle to make adequate contributions to my retirement accounts and family vacations have grown few and far between. The comfortable middle-class lifestyle I have worked hard for 56 years to provide has been slowly trickling away. I quite simply feel as though Maryland has taxed and legislated my family out of the middle class. The primary force behind the dramatic increase in electricity rates can be traced back to House Bill 703 from the year 1999. HB 703 deregulated the utility companies and brought us to where we are today.
The national average electricity rate is 10.27 cents per kilowatt hour. Marylanders are paying 12.21 cents – nearly 20% more than the national average. The scary thing is, many people who spearheaded this assault on the middle-class are still in office. Al Redmer, the Insurance Commissioner and a candidate for Baltimore County Executive, voted for HB 703 when he served in the House of Delegates. Rate increases, however, are not the only adverse effects electricity deregulation has had on the people of Maryland. One need only look at the 2017 legislative session to see just how far Maryland politicians have gone towards selling out their constituents.
SB 969, Electricity – Construction of Overhead Transmission Lines – Condemnation Authority, was voted into law in April of 2017. This bill, frequently referred to as the ‘Transource Bill’, gave the power of eminent domain to private, for-profit utility companies. Eminent domain has a purpose and should never be used outside of government. It should only be used by the government for the benefit of the community as a whole. Transource, a private utility company, is seeking to bring unnecessary and unneeded powerlines into Maryland. They want to use eminent domain to increase profits for their company and shareholders, giving little consideration to how this will financially affect businesses, family farms, and property owners in rural Harford County.
Interestingly, Kathy Szeliga, the House Minority Whip, voted for SB 969. Once the public was made aware of Szeliga’s vote, she was forced to politically backtrack in an effort to save her political career and preserve her ambitions for higher office. She introduced four pieces of legislation in an effort to appear as though she was attempting to clean up the mess she already made. That’s far from heroism. Additionally, none of the four bills Szeliga tried to promote actually repealed the giving of eminent domain powers to private companies. I’d like to see real legislation and leadership that actually tries to correct problems – not more political gamesmanship.
While Al Redmer and Kathy Szeliga continue to flourish in Annapolis, we should all remember that it has been and continues to be on our backs. Their victories have not been our victories and our struggles have not been felt by them. I urge you to keep this in mind on election day and to vote for candidates that uphold our values and safeguard our wallets. Hard working Marylanders deserve the opportunity to prosper and make something of their lives.