Economy & Budget

Trump’s budget targets affordable, reliable power

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President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget would handcuff rural families and businesses absent a formidable response by Congress.

For America’s electric cooperatives, one of the most alarming proposals targets publicly owned transmission assets and their ability to provide renewable energy across more than 30 states.

The Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs), housed within the U.S. Department of Energy, market hydroelectric power from water projects operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. More than 600 consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric co-ops rely on PMAs for access to this important source of low-cost, clean electricity.

The president’s proposal to sell PMA transmission assets would jeopardize affordable and reliable power for more than 100 million people across the nation. In fact, this proposal would have a devastating impact on rural economies with absolutely no benefit to the federal budget.

{mosads}These proposals are all the more misguided considering that the federal hydropower program pays its own way, at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. In fact, the program makes money. Appropriations for the federal power program are repaid, with interest to the U.S. Treasury by federal power customers. We need more federal programs to operate in this way, not less.

As we debate the president’s proposed budget and our nation’s priorities, it’s important to remember the real-life consequences of these policies. Many in Washington are far too concerned with scoring political points and posturing, rather than working to get it right. 

The fact is, while President Trump’s budget proposal on PMAs endangers access to dependable, affordable electricity in America’s cities, towns and rural communities, the consequences reach far beyond your home’s electrical panel. If implemented, these policies will hurt the pocketbooks of everyday Americans, which in turn will stall local economies, slow innovation and ultimately lower the quality of life for many Americans.

This is a bad recipe for rural America. As the representative of 42 million electric cooperative member-owners, we know firsthand that rural communities needs investment targeted at the projects that provide value rather than ill-advised cuts. We need the federal government to dedicate more resources to building American communities, which have disproportionately suffered under a changing economy. This investment should come in the form of expanded access to broadband, ensuring a secure, reliable electric grid bolstered by new technologies and access to cost-effective sources of electricity, like those offered by PMAs.

A healthy rural America can be the rising tide that lifts the nation’s economy and the standard of living in countless communities. Rather than shifting funds away from critical programs that have a storied record of success, the administration should be working with the PMAs, co-ops and other stakeholders to jumpstart rural America’s economic engines.

The stakes are too high to play games with affordable and reliable power for millions of Americans. Congress has historically recognized the important role of the PMAs with overwhelming bipartisan support. And America’s electric cooperatives value their strong relationship with the federal hydropower program.

We look forward to continuing to work with the administration, members of Congress and other stakeholders to find practical solutions to our nation’s challenges and prioritize the needs of rural America. I urge the president and Congress to put the American people first throughout this budget process and drop this reckless proposal from any congressional budget agreement.

Jim Matheson is CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. He previously served seven terms as a U.S. Representative from Utah.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Budget Congress Donald Trump Jim Matheson Jim Matheson spending

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