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Perspective: ISRS bill designed to create jobs, upgrade utilities, protect consumers

As I travel my Senate district, my constituents want to talk about jobs. They want to know what the state is doing to attract more jobs and what we are doing to keep the jobs we have. I tell them the best way to create jobs is for government to get out of their way as much as possible. That’s why I’ve sponsored Senate Bill 207, Infrastructure Strengthening and Regulatory Streamlining (ISRS).

Major employers looking to bring jobs to Missouri always have questions that speak to core business functions. Do you have the workforce I need? Are your tax rates competitive? Is your infrastructure up-to-date and reliable? Finally, one of the most basic questions for any business: can you provide me with reliable, longterm, low cost electricity?

I’m worried that in the near future, Missouri will not be able to answer “yes” on the question of low-cost, long-term, reliable power. Although our electric rates are below the national average, our power plants are aging. We have substations that are decades old and in need of upgrading and even replacement. We need to modernize our infrastructure to a smart grid that meets the energy demands of the future.

Our neighboring states are moving aggressively to invest in their infrastructure so they can attract hightech manufacturing and industry. In fact, a recent study by the Edison Electric Institute reveals that 44 of 50 states have a more supportive regulatory climate than Missouri. If Missouri wants to compete, we cannot fall behind on our infrastructure investments.

In Missouri, investor-owned utilities and the rates they charge consumers are fully regulated — despite scare tactics to the contrary. The purpose of those regulations is to protect consumer interests while also making sure we have reliable, affordable power. From what I’ve seen, those 100-year-old regulations need to be modernized to best support the hightech demands of modern residences and businesses. Our antiquated regulations mean that instead of predictable electric rates, businesses and consumers are subjected to unpredictable and unnecessary rate spikes. Good policies and streamlined regulatory processes will lead to Missouri families being able to plan for their household utility expenses, not get shell-shocked by them.

The benefits for Missourians from ISRS legislation are significant. Muchneeded upgrades will improve reliability, increase efficiency, and harden our system against storm-related outages. It is always cheaper to replace power lines in a strategic manner rather than waiting to do so until after the ice-storm or severe thunderstorm decimates them. In addition, rate increases will become more predictable, with fewer large rate spikes that harm families and businesses. Perhaps most importantly, increased infrastructure investment will immediately create good-paying, boots-onthe-ground jobs for Missouri’s workers. These are jobs we need right now, but our outdated regulations stand in the way of capital investments that will make them a reality.

I, and over 100 House and Senate bi-partisan co-sponsors of SB207, believe that ISRS legislation provides Missouri with opportunities to attract industry and create jobs. For example, the Small Modular Reactors (SMR) industry alone represents a potentially $25 billion opportunity for the state. But we must have the infrastructure that can handle this kind of major manufacturing.

Ten years ago, Missouri passed similar regulatory reform for the water and gas utilities, and we’ve seen the benefits. Now is the time to make sure we are attracting jobs with a 21st century infrastructure.

ISRS provides Missouri with the opportunity to make more prudent decisions on how we can turn million dollar investments in our energy infrastructure into billions of dollars in economic returns, all while preserving our existing consumer protections. I hope that you’ll join me in supporting this common-sense reform.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, serves Central Missouri's 6th state senatorial district.

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