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Minnesota GOP lawmakers: Tax cuts should result in lower energy rates

ST. PAUL—Republicans in the Minnesota House want to make it easier for the recently enacted corporate tax cuts to result in lower energy rates for consumers.

State Reps. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Nolan West, R-Blaine, said at a news conference Tuesday that the 14 percent reduction in corporate taxes approved by Congress in December should be worth $200 million to Minnesota utility companies.

They want to see that savings passed on to energy consumers in the form of lower prices rather than landing in the companies' coffers.

"This means more money in the pockets of families, small businesses and large energy users," said Garofalo, who chairs the House jobs and energy committee. "As we all know, high energy prices kill jobs."

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission regulates the rates charged by energy companies to make sure they are fair and reasonable related to the cost of delivery. Dan Wolf, a commission spokesman, said the agency started studying the impact the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would have on the energy industry shortly after the legislation was approved.

Garofalo and West plan to sponsor legislation this legislative session that would allow the utilities commission to retroactively reduce energy rates to Jan. 1 when the tax cuts became law. They want the rate reductions to align with what the companies will save on taxes after the corporate rate was cut from 35 percent to 21 percent.

The proposed legislation would apply only to investor-owned utilities regulated by the state utilities commission, including Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, CenterPoint Energy and Minnesota Energy Resources. Rural energy cooperatives and city-owned utilities would not be affected.

The utilities commission held a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the impact of the tax cut legislation. Energy companies provided the commission with an overview of the positive and negative implications of the tax bill on their industries.

The commission expects to receive more information about the impacts of the tax law changes in the coming weeks. Any decisions on rates would likely come later this year.

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