Governor Hutchinson sent a letter to the Arkansas Public Service Commission today requesting that the commission lower utility rates in the wake of the federal corporate tax cut.

From the letter to APSC chairman Ted Thomas:


“Investor-owned utilities have a monopoly, regulated by the Public Service Commission, on providing electricity and natural gas services to Arkansas’s families and businesses. Arkansas law allows utility providers to charge rates that recover the cost of providing utility service plus a rate of return on investment. Federal income taxes paid by the utility are one such cost.

The purpose of this letter is to request that the Arkansas Public Service Commission, as expeditiously as possible, take whatever steps are necessary to pass the benefit of the corporate tax cut to Arkansas families and businesses in the form of lower utility rates.”

The three-member Arkansas Public Service Commission serves at the pleasure of the governor, but it’s supposed to be a nonpartisan, independent operation. The governor, officially at least, has no sway over its decision making. So read this is Hutchinson campaigning.

But two of the three commissioners, Thomas and Kimberly O’Guinn, were Hutchinson appointees. Terms are for six years; commissioners can be reappointed.


John Bethel, APSC executive director, said commission staff had already been looking into the potential effect of the corporate tax cuts on utilities. He said he anticipated staff recommending reductions to rates, just as it did — and the commission approved — after the last major corporate tax cut, in 1986. Bethel said the impact would be different for each utility, so the recommended rate decreases would likely be different.