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House passes Kemper bond, rate recovery bills

February 8th, 2013 2 comments

The Mississippi House of Representatives passed Friday morning legislation that would allow Mississippi Power to issue bonds, up to $1 billion, to cover costs over $2.4 billion for the Kemper County coal plant. Representatives also approved a bill that would give the Mississippi Public Service Commission authority to set a multi-year rate recovery plan for the plant once it becomes operational.

The vote on the bond bill was 90-26 after about an hour of discussion. The multi-year rate recovery plan bill passed 100-17 with no discussion. Both were held on a motion to reconsider, a procedural move that usually serves only to temporarily delay legislation’s forward movement.

Both bills were in response to a settlement reached last month between the utility and the PSC that lowered what the company could include in the project’s rate base from $2.88 billion to $2.4 billion. The bonds would cover anything over the cap.

Rep. Sherra Lane, D-Waynesboro, offered several amendments to the bond bill that would have prohibited Mississippi Power from collecting any costs incurred before the passage of the legislation, limited what the company could place into the bonds and changed the procedural mechanisms the bond requests would meet at the PSC. She said any decision about cost overruns should lie with the PSC, not on lawmakers.

“This settlement put the $1 billion fee on the Legislature. If the Public Service Commission wants to do that, they have the power to do that.”

The amendments failed. “The more things the company is willing to put into (the rate recovery bonds), the less they can earn on a rate of return,” House Public Utilities Committee Chairman Charles Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, said in opposing the amendment. “The company doesn’t earn a rate of return on the bonds. Issuing the bonds will cost ratepayers less than including these costs in the rate base.”

Rep. Kevin Horan, D-Grenada, offered an amendment that would have limited to $500,000 attorneys’ fees related to issuing the bonds. It passed.

“This bill is fundamentally unfair to every member of the Legislature,” Horan said, echoing Lane’s assertion that the PSC should grapple with whether to allow cost overruns, not lawmakers. “This is a shame.”

Mississippi Power spokesperson Cindy Duvall said in a statement that Friday’s vote “takes us one step closer to saving Mississippi Power customers $1 billion or more.”

The coal plant is scheduled to begin commercial operation in May 2014.

Familiar bills live, die at committee deadline

February 6th, 2013 1 comment

The legislation that would have stopped the requirement that certain small businesses pay two months’ worth of sales and use taxes right before the end of the fiscal year is dead.

Tuesday was the first major deadline for bills to either make it out of the committees to which they were first assigned, or wait until next session.

The accelerated tax payment system requires that taxpayers that collect sales and use taxes and have an average monthly tax liability of at least $20,000 – which encompasses a lot of small businesses – pay June taxes by June 25, a week before a new fiscal year starts. Normally, those taxes are paid the following month. (For example, April taxes are paid on May 20.)

The Mississippi National Federation of Independent Businesses had supported raising that $20,000 threshold to at least $50,000, something that was supposed to happen due to legislation passed a few years ago, but has been delayed. Four bills that would have done that were filed; none made it past the committee deadline.

Several pieces of legislation that have died the last few sessions met the same fate this year  — among them, bills to require nursing homes to carry liability insurance and shifting the burden of proof from claimants to insurance companies in claims arising under all-perils policies.

Other bills that have gotten the attention of the business community fared better. Legislation to expand financial literacy classes to all high school grades made it. That legislation is one Treasurer Lynn Fitch’s priorities.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s collection of tax credit bills are still alive, though they face a later deadline because they’re revenue bills.  The same goes for bills that clarify how tax assessors calculate the tax liability for Section 42, or affordable rental, housing developments.

The first deadline for those bills is Feb. 27, when they must be passed out of their chamber, or die.

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Fiscal year 2012 brought Toyota big jumps in operating, net income

February 5th, 2013 No comments

Toyota’s net revenues for the nine-month period that ended Dec. 31 were 16.2 trillion yen (about $174.8 billion).

That represented a 26 percent increase over the same period last fiscal year. The company announced the results Tuesday.

Operating income increased 117.1 billion yen ($1.3 billion), to 818.5 billion yen ($88.2 billion). Net income increased from 162.5 billion yen to 648.1 billion yen ($6.9 billion).

The company attributed the increase in operating income to successful marketing efforts that generated 660.0 billion yen ($7.1 billion) and reducing costs by 320 billion yen ($3.5 billion).

Consolidated vehicle sales for the nine months totaled 6.629 million units, an increase of 1.634 million units compared to the same period last year.

In Japan, vehicle sales totaled 1.668 million units, an increase of 310,564 units compared to the same period last fiscal year. In North America, vehicle sales totaled 1.865 million units, an increase of 596,587 units compared to the prior year.

Also on Tuesday, Toyota revised its consolidated vehicle sales forecast for fiscal year 2013 from 8.75 million units to 8.85 million units, an increase of 100,000 units from the previous forecast announced last November. The upward adjustment was attributed to an expected jump in North American sales.

The company also said it expects fiscal year 2013 consolidated net revenue to reach 21 trillion yen ($226.5 billion), operating income of 1.15 trillion yen ($10.8 billion), and net income of 860 billion yen ($9.3 billion).

“We believe that our efforts have been bearing fruit and that we are finally on the road to sustainable growth,” Toyota senior managing officer Takahiko Ijichi said in a company press release. “We will continue our efforts to build ever-better cars and to move forward in a steadfast manner.”

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Toyota’s January sales growth nearly doubles industry average

February 4th, 2013 No comments

Toyota’s sales in 2012 were up 26 percent over 2011, and that trend continued the first month of 2013.

The company sold 157,725 units in January, an increase of 26.6 percent over the same period from last year.

That’s despite January 2012 having one more selling day than last month.

“The sales pace we saw in the fourth quarter of last year rolled into January, exceeding our expectations for the industry,” Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said in a company press release.

The automotive industry as a whole had its best January since 2008. Sales growth spread across all manufacturers averaged 14 percent from last January. Toyota’s 26 percent increase nearly doubled that figure. Ford Motor Co.’s 22 percent increase was second best.

Sales of the Corolla, which is made in Blue Springs, were up 32 percent, with 23,822 units sold.

To see Toyota’s entire January sales chart, click here.

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