The League opposes A-6115/S-4081, which seeks to prohibit certain sewer and water utility service discontinuances; would establish the Winter Sewer and Water Termination Program; and would require the BPU to include electric, gas, sewer, and water public utilities in the Winter Termination Program.
This legislation would continue the grace period provided for under Executive Order 246 for residential customers of electric, gas, sewer, and water utilities through March 15, 2022, as well as nullify any disconnection and require disconnections to be restored immediately. Further, the legislation would prohibit the placing or selling of liens on the unpaid balances until after March 15, 2022. In addition the legislation would require the utilities to establish a 12-month payment plan and cannot require payment of a down payment, deposit, reconnection cost, interest, or penalties.
The well-intended legislation will have significant unintended consequences. Municipal water and sewer utilities have financial obligations that must be met. If they cannot charge interest or sell liens to meet financial obligations, they could be forced to enact large rate increases. Such increases could create financial burdens on the remaining residential customers, who may not qualify for assistance program but can ill-afford a rate increase.
The legislation is before the full Assembly on Monday and is poised for second reading in the Senate.
Contact: Lori Buckelew, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481, x112.