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Wisconsin lawmakers split over power grid right of first refusal

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(The Center Square) – The debate never happened in the Wisconsin Assembly, but that doesn’t mean the debate is finished over the right of first refusal in Wisconsin.

The Assembly used a voice vote to approve the plan to give utilities already doing business in the state the chance to bid on about $2 billion in upcoming work on the electric grid, before any out of state companies can offer a price.

The lack of a roll call and any debate riled lawmakers who’ve spent months opposing the plan.

State Rep. Nate Gufstason, R-Fox Crossing, is one of them.

“Wisconsin-based companies should be on a level playing field, and I know that our companies are the best in the country. However, competition is being sidelined for protectionism.” Gustafson said in a statement. “The potential long-term effects on the state, specifically our tax dollars, are not being taken into consideration. Legislatively narrowing the market allows for less savings to our great state and more crony capitalism.”

State Rep. Ty Bodden, R-Stockbridge, also voted against the right of first refusal proposal.

“The legislation on the right of first refusal will hurt working families. By eliminating competition, you eliminate the benefits of cost caps and schedule commitments that free market competition brings. This means higher utility bills for businesses and families across Wisconsin,” Bodden said. “Simply put, competition can only have a positive impact on Wisconsinites.”

Sen. Julian Bradley, R-Franklin, was one of the champions of the plan. He said people in Wisconsin will benefit if Wisconsin companies do the work on Wisconsin’s power grid.

“Wisconsin can choose real cost savings through a state led process that empowers our local utilities to drive down costs through economies of scale and competitive bidding for materials and labor or a federal process that delays projects, drives up costs and is ultimately out of our control,” Bradley told The Center Square. “I know my constituents want actual savings and reliability rather than projected cost savings that never materialize.”

The right of first refusal now heads to the Wisconsin Senate, where its future is less certain.

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