Bush's Plan Could Boost
Skimming BPA money isn't worth its small benefit to the national debt
President Bush wants to pay down the national debt, which as of Friday stood at $27,609.93 for every citizen of this nation.
That's a good idea, but he chose a terrible place to start: picking the pockets of Northwest residents. His budget proposal calls for skimming off some of the Bonneville Power Administration's earnings during good years, when the BPA sells surplus electricity to the Southwest and California.
That would bring the Treasury about $145 million per year in 2007-09. Trouble is, it could force rate increases that would suck $109 million from the Northwest economy and make 1,120 jobs disappear.
Take that, Pacific Northwest.
There's no way that equation adds up to help the nation. The Northwest's congressional delegation already is working to scuttle it. With luck, the proposal will suffer the same fate as a bad idea from last year's budget, one that would have pumped up BPA rates for the Treasury's benefit.
The administration is forgetting that the BPA was created during the Depression to help the Northwest's struggling economy. The network of federal dams has done a terrific job of generating electricity over the years (although they have taken a heavy toll on native salmon runs).
Affordable power prices have drawn many businesses to the region. If rates rise and these employers leave, the economy could tank.
If a well-run BPA makes money during years when the snowpack is heavy, that's good. Northwesterners understand all too well that some years the rain doesn't fall, or it falls at the wrong time, leaving too little water behind the dams.
The BPA's responsibility is to prepare for such times -- not to underwrite a fraction-of-a-percent change in the national debt.
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