Current budget proposals eliminate funding for the state’s Office of Public Counsel. This means the Office’s days could be numbered. The Office of Public Counsel represents consumers when utility companies ask for rate increases. It has an operating budget of approximately $1-million a year, and that funding could be a victim of state budget cuts. Acting Public Counsel John Coffman is asking state lawmakers to approve a plan to establishassessment funding, which would have the utilities paying to keep the Office up and running. He says without this, the Office could be forced to close its doors. Coffman knows this is a tough sell, because the utility companies are very much opposed to the suggestion. He says the opposition probably has little to do with the Office’s operating costs and more to do with the fact the Office has been a thorn in the side of the utilities. The Office has been around since 1975.
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