Agency 101: Public Service Commission

Sep 14, 2022 | Administration

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Click here for a printable version of our report or read the full version below.

State Agency Fast Facts: 

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is an independent regulatory agency with 3 commissioners appointed to 6-year staggered terms. Generally, the PSC is charged with regulating rates, financing, and construction projects for Wisconsin’s electric, gas, steam, and water utilities.

The agency also oversees the popular broadband grant program. The PSC’s 2021-2023 budget is set at almost $64 million and has 154 employees.

Taxpayer Alert!

Did you know?

Did you know that the PSC approved over $225 million in broadband grants since November of 2021? $125 million was paid for with bonding, while the other $100 million came from funding received through the American Rescue Plan Act without legislative approval. Although the Commission chooses which grant requests get funded, in the last several rounds a majority of commissioners have rubber stamped the staff’s recommendations.

Reform History:

In recent years, legislation has been passed to simplify the rate setting process for gas and electric utilities. Prior to this reform, the Commission would spend months building a record that would inform the decision of the commissioners. This new process allows parties to the rate case to negotiate an agreement that would then be approved by the Commission. Although this new process is more streamlined and efficient, the Commission concedes some of its oversight in the rate setting process.

Close Call…

In his last budget, Governor Evers proposed doubling the amount of money that utilities need to contribute to the “Focus on Energy” program from roughly $100 million to almost $200 million annually. This would have resulted in more money coming directly out of your pocket when you pay your utility bill each month.

Keep an Eye on:

As electric vehicles become more prevalent, the need for charging infrastructure will continue to grow. Generally, if an entity sells electricity in Wisconsin, that entity is considered a utility and is regulated as such.

In order for electric vehicle infrastructure to be built out across the state, several changes to the statutes need to be made in order for gas stations and other public venues to install and maintain charging stations.

Meet the PSC Commissioners

IRG Wants to Know:

If you were in charge for a day, what reforms would you make to the UW? Email Alex Ignatowski, IRG’s Director of State Budget and Government Reform, at ai@reforminggovernment.org.