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Suffolk Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr.: I oppose proposed PSEG rate hike

Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. is

Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. is sworn in on Jan. 5, 2015, while standing next to his wife, Leslie, at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge. Credit: Steve Pfost

Newly elected Suffolk Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. says he opposes PSEG Long Island's $440 million rate hike proposal and has asked the state Public Service Commission to allow him to intervene as an official party in the pending rate case.

Kennedy took the position in a three-page letter to the commission dated Friday and said he is ready to hire an outside lawyer with $10,000 to $20,000 in funds from his budget to fight the rate hike.

The Smithtown Republican said that the county paid $23.9 million in electric bills last year and the utility's plan for a 4-percent rate hike annually over the next three years is too much for the county and its taxpayers to bear.

"Someone has to say enough is enough," said Kennedy in an interview late Friday. "We have 3 million residents on Long Island . . . trying to survive with less and these guys are hosing everyone because they can."

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir, in a statement, said "We welcome the opportunity to continue to have constructive, open dialogue regarding our request."

He said the rate hike was "modest" and would allow the utility to continue to improve services. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Legislature have yet to weigh in on the rate case.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, (D-Amityville), said Sunday that lawmakers have talked about joining the case, but no decision has been made. Among the considerations is the legal cost to county taxpayers.

"It's something we're looking at internally," he said.

Bellone's staff did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Kennedy's letter said the utility's request was an "excessive amount" when state and local governments are being required to hold the line on spending to a 2-percent increase. Kennedy's counterpart, Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, has spoken out against the PSEG rate plans. Nassau is listed as an intervenor to the rate case.

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