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PRC Funding Shift Recommended [Albuquerque Journal, N.M.]

By Michael Hartranft, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 17--A new League of Women Voters of New Mexico report says the entire Public Regulation Commission should be funded by assessing the industries the agency regulates.

That's among seven recommendations compiled by the group's PRC study committee and presented Wednesday to the agency. The League said it began a study to formulate positions in 2010 for the oft-criticized agency that regulates utilities and telecommunications in the state.

Funding the PRC through assessments on the industries it regulates, rather than funding tied to tax revenues, is the first recommendation.

"The main benefit would be that they would have funding based on the actual cost of regulation, not something that went up and down with the economy," committee member Neva Van Peski told the Journal .

The report says the assessments -- which would require statutory changes -- should be set annually based on a projected budget approved by the Legislature and kept apart from the general fund. Forty-two states have a separate regulation fund, the report says.

The report also recommends the PRC fund the Attorney General's Office consumer advocacy staff through such assessments.

According to the PRC, 36 percent of its programs are funded through the general fund, while the other 64 percent is funded by other state funds drawn from assessments and fees. Those dollars support the Fire Marshal's Office, Pipeline Safety and Insurance Division.

PRC chief of staff Johnny Montoya said the previous commission discussed the assessment idea. "It's something we'd look at and do our due diligence," he said, adding he knew of no such proposals before this year's Legislature.

The league also offers recommendations for increasing efficiency at the PRC and addressing corruption issues, including having a PRC inspector general to investigate complaints and conduct audits.

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(c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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