PNS Daily Newscast - January 22, 2018 

The funding stumble in Congress deepens the crisis for health centers; also on our nationwide rundown; we will let you know about concerns over possible "gifts" to payday lenders; and a new survey provides alarming numbers about young people and homelessness.

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Big Rate Hikes Could Hit Minnesotans

Two separate utility hikes could kick in in the near future. (energy gov)
Two separate utility hikes could kick in in the near future. (energy gov)
June 19, 2017

DULUTH, Minn. – Minnesota families could pay a lot more for utilities if two separate rate hikes are implemented.

A request by Minnesota Power is currently going through the public utilities process, and would raise bills for the average consumer by more than 6 percent - which equals about $225 a year.

Buddy Robinson, staff director for Minnesota Citizens Federation, says his group has been fighting rate-hike proposals for more than 40 years. He says there are many people who just can't afford it without sacrificing other necessities, such as food.

"Especially in Minnesota Power's territory, most of the northeastern part of the state, where economically things are much much worse than in the Twin Cities metropolitan area – very high poverty rate, so a lot of people just can't shoulder it," he explains.

A second, 6-percent hike that could hit consumers is part of a plan that was approved by lawmakers in 2015 to offset costs in the iron-ore and paper-mill industries by charging more for residential and small-business customers. Utility companies have been authorized to implement the rate increase but haven't done it yet.

Robinson says that legislation was approved without much input from Minnesotans, and he doesn't think many people even know about it.

"It had a 90-day fast-track process without public hearings without notifications, without expert testimony, and it put a lot of pressure on the public utility commission to produce what they knew was a very bad decision," he says.

Several meetings are being hosted in the next couple of days for citizens to learn more about the rate hikes. One is tonight at the Range Recreation Civic Center in Eveleth, another on Tuesday at the Inn on the Lake in Duluth and one on Wednesday at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN