The Billings Gazette published an article on Dec. 27 with the headline, “For Montana utilities, savings from new tax laws may not go to ratepayers.” Sensational? Yes. Designed to infuriate? Of course. Misleading? Yes.
Under the recent Tax Reform Act passed by Congress, NorthWestern Energy expects a tax reduction. Will NorthWestern pass the benefits on to its customers? Of course. We don’t know the precise impact of the Tax Reform Act for obvious reasons: The bill is long and we have to analyze it. But, for weeks, we have been discussing how to use a tax reduction for our customers’ benefit, if the ultimate bill passed included one.
What is so particularly aggravating about this headline and the article is that NorthWestern helped prevent an amendment from being added to the Tax Reform Act that would have resulted in a very large rate increase for our Montana customers. We learned of this last-minute amendment, and alerted other utilities to it, and engaged in an education campaign about the amendment’s negative impact on our Montana customers. Our efforts were instrumental in helping ensure that our customers were not harmed by the Tax Reform Act. In short, the bill went from a huge negative for our customers, to what we now believe is a modest positive. We don’t expect thanks, or congratulations, and hardly anyone in Montana even knew of this proposed amendment or of our efforts to help ensure that it did not become law. But, it demonstrates our commitment to our customers’ well-being.
Regardless of the article headline, be assured that NorthWestern will be passing along the benefits of the Tax Reform Act to our customers.
Heather H. Grahame