U.S. House to vote on bill affecting rural electric cooperatives ability to get loans

The U.S. House of Representatives will be taking up a bill (HR 3581, the “Budget and Accounting Transparency Act of 2011” sponsored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ)) this afternoon.

It would change the way Federal loan programs are “scored” from a budgeting perspective, according to Kirk Johnson, senior vice president of Government Relations at National Rural Electric Cooperaive Association.

• HR 3581 changes the accounting rules governing Rural Utilties Service (RUS) loans to electric cooperatives in such a way that will greatly hamper Congress’s ability to provide loans to rural electric cooperatives to build and improve rural electric infrastructure.

• The bill will make the RUS program more expensive on paper from a budget scorekeeping perspective, even though rural electric cooperatives have an outstanding record of repaying RUS loans in full and on time.

• The bill will hurt rural electric infrastructure development (and the jobs associated with rural electrification) that has been one of the most successful public-private partnerships in the nation’s history.

• Electric cooperatives will have to rely on more expensive lending if the RUS loan program is greatly curtailed or eliminated, resulting in higher electricity rates for co-op member-consumers.

• It was not considered by the Agriculture Committee or Small Business Committee – two Committees that have a strong sense of what is needed to keep rural America and small businesses vibrant.

• Please contact the leadership to express your concerns about the potential implications HR 3581 will have on rural electric cooperatives in your district.

Video: Dale Niezwaag, Basin Electric senior legislative representative, explains how the bill could impact electric cooperatives and what we can do to try and stop it.

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