COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland said yesterday that he has tried several approaches to find a compromise with House Republicans on a bill that would reshape the cost of electric power for consumers and the way power is bought and sold in Ohio.
Utility earnings have become a sticking point blocking agreement between Mr. Strickland and House Speaker Jon Husted. The governor said he has focused on ways to keep utility profits in line, but that Mr. Husted turned down all his suggestions.
"I have compromised where I felt compromise was needed and justified, but there is a line I will not cross and my commitment [is] to protect Ohio's economy, Ohio's jobs, and Ohio's consumers. I am very close to that line, I can tell you," Mr. Strickland said.
Husted spokesman Karen Stivers said the speaker and Mr. Strickland had a constructive conversation yesterday and agreed to keep working in a cooperative spirit.
"The speaker intends to continue to work to bridge the gap between members of the legislature and the governor," she said.
The House has been wrangling with the bill for three days, and the legislature won't be finished with it until next week at the earliest.
The Senate adjourned yesterday for this week, meaning the earliest it could take up whether to agree with changes the House makes to a Senate version of the bill would be Tuesday. The House had scheduled a vote on its version of the bill last night, but canceled the session on news of the Senate adjournment.
Mr. Strickland said he offered House negotiators four options for determining how utilities can amass profits: base them on costs, return on equity a utility owns, a "just and reasonable standard" as regulators currently do, and preventing excessive earnings. All four were rejected, Mr. Strickland said.
"I think I've gone as far as I can go. I know that I've been very conscientious in my efforts, but if the legislature isn't willing to protect consumers from excessive earnings, I don't know where else to go," Mr. Strickland said.
Meanwhile in Michigan, a House panel yesterday approved a rewrite of the state's 2000 electricity law despite opposition from groups that have saved money under that law.
The bipartisan legislation would begin limiting the amount of competition that the state's major electric utilities face from alternative power suppliers for business and school customers.
The bill also would change how rates are raised and help utilities recover some financing expenses from customers during the construction of new multibillion-dollar power plants.
And it would ensure all customers pay the actual cost of the electricity they receive. Rates historically have been "skewed" by regulators so residential customers pay less than actual costs while business customers pay more. About $350 million would be shifted from the bills of companies, universities, and others to residential customers over five years under the measure.
The legislation might be approved by the House today before going to the Senate.