Utility rates aren’t answer to poverty

The state Legislature is considering three Senate bills that allow or require a utility to provide lower gas and electric utility rates for certain classes of rate payers. Some state the Public Regulation Commission “shall establish a program of assistance by public utilities to low-income electric and gas customers. … Energy expenditures may be reduced through the establishment of different rates for low-income rate payers…”

This type of legislation, if passed, would raise the rates of all other gas and electric rate payers in New Mexico. It rides most heavily on the backs of the lower middle-class rate payers.

New Mexico has a program to assist the poor with home heating called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Federal LIHEAP funds cover only a portion of the needs and the state has failed to fund this program since the 2005 special session. There are five bills under consideration for state LIHEAP funding in amounts too small to cover current needs.

Helping New Mexico’s poor requires a broad reaching program that should be managed with state dollars in existing social agencies. Gas and electric utility companies are not qualified to administer social programs, nor would we want them in that business.

If the state fails to adequately fund LIHEAP and then raises most rate payers’ rates to assist low-income households with their heating needs, wouldn’t this be considered just another tax? New Mexico must address this need using existing resources. Legislation should not mandate socialized rates in any industry nor should the government use utilities as tax collectors.

Utility rates should cover utility costs, expenses and a decent rate of return — period.

Carla J. Sonntag
Executive Director New Mexico Utility Shareholders Alliance, Albuquerque

Second-hand smoke unfair to Clovis community
I am 14 years old and attend Marshall Junior High School.

I am a member of SCAT (Students Concerned About Tobacco).

There are many students concerned about tobacco use in New Mexico. Tobacco is and has affected our community in a way that people do not understand. What I mean by this is that when people smoke they do not think they are hurting anyone. Tobacco not only causes harm to the smoker but to everyone and everything it comes in contact with.

There is no way possible to keep seconhand smoke residue from contaminating anything it comes in contact with.

Tobacco not only affects but it infects. I have asthma and sometimes I have to fight for every breath I take. We cannot take clean air for granted. Is there anyone in their right mind who would stand in a field that was being sprayed with poison for crop dusting purposes? And want to inhale the overspray? There is not any difference in this and second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke kills. Let’s put a stop to second-hand smoke and start breathing crisp clean air.

Lucinda Fritz