Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Florida voters to Legislators: NO, you can't do that! Legislators to Florida voters: pound dirt! ... by gimleteye

Florida legislators owe a debt of gratitude to the least capable president in U.S. history. Trump has proven; when nothing means anything, alternate facts rule and anything can be accomplished. Consider the Trump plan to reduce corporate income taxes to 15%. Meaningless.

Trump exploited the federal tax code, and for years voters support of Congress -- the ultimate arbiter of tax rates -- allowed Trump to effectively pay no taxes at all when his many businesses failed in the 1990's and early 2000's. Sure, Democrats bear a fair share of blame for a tax code as filled with holes as a piece of Swiss cheese.

This session of the legislature is turning into the ultimate pinata for special interests.

Take, for one example, Florida's largest regulated utility: Florida Power and Light. State Republicans race to praise FPL as a "good corporate citizen". Take a closer look.

FPL has a state-mandated, guaranteed rate of return of 10%. Who wouldn't want a business with a guaranteed return of ten percent? You thought the guarantee was an honest return in exchange for reliable, cheap electricity? Think again.

Florida legislators bend over routinely, as they are doing in this session of the state legislature, to give FPL even more, a lot more than ten percent. Without getting into detail: FPL lobbyists have "persuaded" the legislature to work around two court decisions against its interests. The first, a new bill approving a guaranteed rate of return for fracking in Oklahoma, putting Florida ratepayers on the line to pay for its risk. The second, also to evade another decision that ratepayers and citizens mistakenly believed had been settled by Florida courts: the right to go around local home rule and install massive high-intensity power poles down the length of Miammi's US Route 1, in one of the most heavily trafficked areas of Florida's most populous county.

But there is more: FPL, through its parent company NextEra Energy, pays NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX at all. The corporation received, instead, over a 7 year period a credit equal to the cost of replacing the failed cooling canals at its Turkey Point nuclear units. A solution that FPL refuses to undertake because "it is too costly".

Put another way: FPL executives and top shareholders -- through the state legislature and lax environmental enforcement the legislature implicitly OK's -- are both being funded by ratepayers and also being REFUNDED by taxpayers hundreds of millions for defying taxpayers, for defying the courts, for spending tens of millions to defy the will of voters, for destroying drinking water aquifers, and "taking" by subversive eminent domain the natural resources of one of the nation's most threatened national parks.

NextEra Energy (FPL's corporate "parent") had corporate profits of $21.5 billion from 2008 to 2015. The company paid no federal income taxes on this amount but instead received a net credit of $313 million due to government subsidies. … The analysis of NextEra Energy’s corporate profits and taxes was done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a center-left nonprofit. It was published in a March 2017 report, “The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth; Corporate Tax Avoidance by Fortune 500 Companies, 2008 to 2015.”

So Donald Trump can yammer all he wants about what a great and terrific tax plan to reduce corporate taxes and stimulate jobs!, but actually corporations like NextEra and other regulated entities are paying zero percent and getting money back from taxpayers in order to lay down the tracks for future profits (cf. Big Sugar and a new bill allowing it to harvest rainfall, make taxpayers engineer it clean enough to sell back to the public).

Their schemes are so great! and so successful that state legislators feel no doubt, no uncertainty, no hesitation to lie, to cheat the public, and yet wear pins on the lapels professing their love of God and Constitution.

FPL, along with its other regulated utilities, are top campaign contributors in Tallahassee, particularly to those incumbents with aspirations to advance: Gov. Rick Scott, to the Senate seat held by Bill Nelson, and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, who aims to replace Scott as Governor. It is money-ball, full time in Florida's distant capitol.

Congratulations, Florida voters: we did this to ourselves.


Anonymous said...

But there’s far more that you’re missing. Embedded in the annual revenue requirements that are used to calculate FPL’s current electric base rates, is the statutory 35% federal corporate income tax rate. So, rain or shine, come hell or high water, FPL gets to keep the revenues that are generated from that statutory 35% income tax rate on an annual basis, even if the parent company, NextEra Energy pays $0 in federal corporate income taxes for the year. Other states have mandated a fairer approach by establishing an adjustment clause mechanism that adjusts utility base rates, annually, for the effective tax rate (the taxes actually paid or not paid).

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI: Stay away from Edward R. Blumberg.... He's a total snake in the grass!

Anonymous said...

That's amazing! Ed Blumberg is such a jerk! I am so glad that someone else commented