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The case that Georgia Power is attempting to make regarding up front charges for its proposed new nuclear power plants is arcane at best. Understanding the financing of construction of these plants is almost as challenging as understanding how they are designed and operated. Here's an attempt to clarify the muddy waters.
Nuclear plants require about eight years from conception to operation and their initial cost is quite high. They are a competitive source of energy because their fuel costs over their operating lives is low in relation to fossil fuels.
Because they are so costly to build, companies like Georgia Power must borrow large sums of money to pay for construction.
The interest on these borrowed monies accrues for several years. If it is not paid during the course of construction, it becomes a large percentage of the total cost of construction.
On the other hand, if Georgia Power is allowed to collect this "interest on funds used during construction" as the project is being built, it can pay the interest along the way. The company estimates that this will reduce the total in-service cost of the plant by about $2 billion. This reduction in cost is then passed on to us rate payers.
Here's how it works. Our rates would begin to increase during construction at a rate of about 1.3 percent per year for seven years for a total of about 9 percent. If we do not pay this increase during the construction period and wait until the plants are completed prior to any rate increase, we will pay about a 12 percent increase over only two years.
With the early phase-in, we will pay less money (about $300 million less) and increases will be more gradual over a longer period of time.
It's not about helping Georgia Power to recover costs before the plants are in operation. It's about helping the company minimize its costs, which are ultimately passed along to us as rate payers. And this is to say nothing about the reduction in global warming and air pollution that nuclear provides in relation to coal.
I urge the Georgia Assembly to follow the lead of the Senate and pass this bill. It's just common sense.
William D. Rezak
If SPLOST is needed, why a special election?
As expected, local officials rolled out their pro-SPLOST talking points in Sunday's paper. Equally unsurprisingly, none of the proponents writing in support of the tax bothered to address any of the issues that I raised in three previous letters. They all seem comfortable discussing SPLOST in the abstract, but not SPLOST VI specifically at this time and with these specific items.
At this point, I am willing to set aside all other objections and just boil everything down to one point that I cannot get past: Why a special election?
If this is such a wonderful idea, if it is our patriotic and civic duty to vote yes as Emily Bagwell and Cooper Embry implied, then why was this not on the ballot in November? The answer is simple: Special elections have low turnout and SPLOST supporters are counting on low turnout to lead them to victory.
I spent much of the last six years either in Iraq or preparing for duty there. My work often called on me to encourage democratic forms of governance through the cultivation of various civic councils. In western Iraq, in particular, the tribal sheiks often asked why voting was necessary; why not just allow them to decide like they always had in the past?
In many hours of conversation, I extolled the virtues of voting and democratic principles. I explained to them how precious the right to vote was and how American leaders spared no effort to encourage the people to exercise this sacred privilege.
I owe the sheiks an apology; our local leaders are no different. They would prefer not to have an election at all. Just let them decide. That is the message they sent to their constituents when they determined to avoid putting the issue on the ballot in the general election last November and instead called a special election.
No one in Sunday's Times — not the editorial page, not the reporters, not the guest columnists — bothered to address the issue of suppressing turnout through the tactic of holding a special election.
Obviously, our elected leaders don't mind spending another few tens of thousands of dollars on a special election to insure the victory of SPLOST.
The county commission chairman has publicly guaranteed passage of SPLOST VI. He is probably right. He made sure of that last year when he scheduled the special election.
I cannot in good conscience support such political maneuvers. You see, I actually believed what I was telling my Iraqi friends.
Property taxes steady as sales taxes add up
This time there is real opposition to another SPLOST. The opposition comes from people who are hard hit by the current recession. Their property values are down and unsalable.
Investments in the form of 401(k)s, IRAs and stocks have taken losses in the 60 to 70 percent range. Seniors and retirees have taken serious hits to the savings they counted on for their future. These people have an opportunity to rid themselves of at least a portion of the sales tax.
Could you use another $15 to $20 per month for food, gas and necessities? Just say "no" to SPLOST VI and use that disposable income to buy what you need instead of buying projects of questionable value.
Consider the projects. Every SPLOST project will require maintenance or staffing or both. That money comes from your property taxes, which never go down by the way. The argument that previous SPLOSTs have reduced the millage rate by 18 percent is easily discounted. Government revenue needs go up every year. Have your property taxes gone down? No. I didn't think so.
Look to the future. If the current Georgia legislature has it's way, we will see another sales tax of 1 percent to 1.5 percent tacked on for transportation. We can expect to be billed for a repayment to the state for a property tax break, already taken, that we will have to give back. An average charge of $300 to $500 per property to return $450 million to the state.
So if SPLOSTVI passes, total sales taxes will near 10 percent. And we haven't even talked about the school systems, which will be demanding more of your disposable income soon.
Voters have the opportunity to say "no" to SPLOST VI and I hope they do.
Bruce W. Hallowell