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Oklahoma cities fighting "unfair" bill

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

MARLOW, OK (KSWO) - A state government agency that allows cities like Marlow, Duncan and Altus to provide power for their citizens, says the Oklahoma legislature is unfairly burdening them in trying to close the $1.3 billion budget shortfall. The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority is asking its customers to fight a bill that is working its way through the state house this week. If the authority is included in the measure, the authority would have to transfer millions of dollars it generated from the last fiscal year, to the state's general fund on July 1st, the start of the next fiscal year.

City of Marlow Administrator Jason McPherson, who is on the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority board says they are taking advantage of the 62 cities in the state that don't get their power from big electric companies. So this week, city officials are asking their citizens to stand up against this bill and the legislators who are putting a financial burden on their city.

"Call them up,” said McPherson. “Tell them that this is not where you will find this money. You've got other places you can find this money."

McPherson says he has been working to get the word out, posting on the city's Facebook page about what is happening at the Capitol that could affect his city and their power supplier.

"You know it's a mad scramble, we get it,” said McPherson. “It's a $1.3 billion hole, but taking it out on the citizens is not the way to fix it."

The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority was created to provide reliable and affordable supply of power to cities. The majority of them are some of the smaller ones in Oklahoma like Comanche, Eldorado, and Frederick.

"The state is saying well we want a part of that money," said McPherson.

The authority fears if it is included in this bill, and is forced to pay millions of dollars to the state, they must raise their rates to make up for the loss. And as a result, its member cities may be forced to pass along that cost to their customers.

McPherson says just because the legislature needs to solve this budget crisis that doesn't mean they can unfairly pick on electric companies that power small town Oklahoma.

"But what they are doing by saying we want your 2 percent is they need to come down here to a Marlow, to an Altus, to a Frederick, to a Duncan and just stand out on a street corner and say will you give me two dollars? Will you give me two dollars? Because that's what they are doing," said McPherson.

The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority board is expecting a decision on whether to include the power supplier in the bill any time now. But in the meantime, they ask if you pay your electricity through your city, to call them up and ask for your state legislators numbers to tell them how you feel about this bill.

McPherson said they don't expect to see a raise in utility rates in Marlow immediately if this bill is passed.  They will monitor the situation for a few months before making a decision.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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