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Government & Politics

Debate Grows Over Whether Energy Bill is a Tax or Rate Increase

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voting
The change is referred to as a rate change but opponents say its a tax increase.

There’s a growing debate over whether a group can put a referendum on next year's ballot that reverses the nuclear bailout bill. The dispute revolves around whether or not the increased rate on electric bills should be considered a tax increase.

A Columbus law firm sent a memo to the Secretary of State arguing that the new energy law charging electric customers up to $2.35 a month for nuclear, coal and solar subsidies, is a tax increase. Citizens can't use a referendum to challenge a tax increase.

But Ned Hill, an energy economics professor for OSU, said, if that's the case, then the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved several tax increases over the years.

"All the other non-bypassable riders that have been larded onto your electricity bills over the past six years are also taxes and maybe legally questionable."

Hill, who wants a referendum, points out that many supporters of the bill argued against the claim that it was essentially a tax increase.

Hill himself called it a de facto tax increase in committee testimony.