ROFR Makes Me ROFL
To paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, bad public policy ideas never die, they just get reintroduced in the next legislative session.
One such very bad policy idea is right of first refusal, which grants major Missouri utilities the automatic right to win all bids on new electric construction lines if they so choose. You may want to read that again. It doesn’t just give major utilities the right to bid on all projects—that goes without saying. It gives them the right to win any project they want, no matter what any other utility or construction company may bid. The idea here is to funnel projects to Missouri companies and “protect” Missouri jobs at the expense of out-of-state competitors. If you think this raises prices on consumers, as any grade school economics textbook would predict, it does. Significantly.
My former Show-Me Institute colleague Jakob Puckett wrote about this issue last year. The same bills have been introduced again this session, so we shall return to Jakob’s arguments from last year:
Wouldn’t it be better for the legislature to propose subjecting transmission lines to competitive bidding, rather than shielding them from it? Since transmission costs are ultimately passed on to customers, it’s customers who bear the brunt, or receive the benefit, of cost-inflating or cost-saving policies.
Missouri will need more electric transmission lines built in the coming years. To build those lines at the lowest possible cost, Missouri needs more free-market activity in transmission projects, not less.
The state-based protectionism here is really something. While you frequently see such types of anti-market, anti-consumer protectionism at the national level (such as the administration’s ill-conceived plan to require only American-made products in our infrastructure efforts), you rarely see it at the state level. But here we have it. It is bad at the national level (with some exceptions, of course), but at least one can understand where it is coming from. As for this one, I’m at a complete loss. Are we really willing to cast everything aside because a company based in Arkansas that hires workers from Oklahoma might offer the best bid (and thereby save Missourians’ money) for a project near Joplin? (That’s a hypothetical project, for the record.)
As Jakob said, we need more markets in electricity, not less, and these bills power us in completely the wrong direction.