Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Response to 'tax break' question

U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Citizens for Tax Justice on Jan. 18 released a list of 30 corporations that paid little or no taxes and spent more in lobbying efforts to obtain tax breaks. The list includes Wisconsin Energy Corporation, our parent company.

In short, tying lobbying to taxes is wrong because there is no connection. Our lobbying efforts focus on energy policy, environmental matters, electric reliability and renewable generation -- all of direct benefit to our customers.

Wisconsin Energy is in total compliance with federal and state tax laws. The corporation's 10-K filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission show effective tax rate percentages of 37.7, 36.5, and 35.5 for years 2008, 2009, and 2010, respectively.

President Obama and Congress enacted, as a matter of public policy, tax laws to give corporations incentives to make capital investments to spur economic growth. The benefits of the tax incentives were passed on to customers in the form of reduced utility rates. However, the accelerated tax depreciation must be paid back in future years as required by law. For Wisconsin Energy, the amount is more than $200 million.

Because Wisconsin Energy's major subsidiaries, such as We Energies, are regulated utilities, any taxes paid are recoverable in electric and natural gas rates, and any tax benefits are returned to customers in the form of lower rates. To that end, the corporation plans to continue to maximize the tax benefits allowed by law on behalf of customers and stockholders.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Asplundh crews rescue driver in auto accident

Asplundh forestry crew members Todd Lyles, Chris Goral, Jon Bax and Jason Anderson performed like heroes to rescue an accident victim in Big Bend. Two Asplundh crews under contract to We Energies were trimming trees along Highway 164 on Jan. 17 when an area resident alerted them about a car that slid off the snowy roadway, flipped over and landed upside down in a pond.

Approaching the vehicle, the workers couldn’t see how many people were in the car because the windows were tinted. With water beginning to fill the car, they took action quickly. Because of the water pressure, the doors wouldn't open, so they tried flipping the car over, but it was too heavy for the four men to get the car back on its wheels. With the car now turned on its side, they flagged down other drivers on the highway to help. Two men stopped to help flip the car the rest of the way and get the driver out.

The driver was a young woman who had just dropped off her son at day care. She was taken to the hospital but later released with no injuries. The four Asplundh employees went home to change clothes and returned to the job site to complete their work day.

The rescued driver was Alyson Beisiegel, the daughter of We Energies employee Jill Zaruba, business manager – customer field operations. Beiseigel asked an Asplundh crew member to call her parents to tell them she was in an accident but OK. "These men saved my daughter’s life,” Zaruba said.

Asplundh crew members who made the rescue, left to right: Jason "JJ" Anderson, Jon Bax, Chris Goral and Todd Lyles, far right. Second from right is Greg Great, who supervises the crews.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Employees share holiday spirit with those in need

Staging bags at Forest Home Elementary.

We Energies employees recently shared their time and personal resources to make the holidays brighter for many in the Milwaukee area.

Employees at Metro North and Calumet service centers collected toys for 50 children and delivered them on Dec. 16 to the Young Leaders Academy elementary school on 13th Street and North Avenue in Milwaukee.

Earlier in the month, four supervisors volunteered their time one evening to help with the Meals for Minds program, a monthly distribution of food at a local school.

The distribution site, Forest Home Elementary School at South 15th Street and West Forest Home Avenue in Milwaukee, was selected for this program because 95 percent of the students at the school qualify for the free- or reduced-price lunch program.

Assisting Meals for Minds.
More than 250 families received bags of food on the night that Randy Chase, customer service supervisor, Patty Finn, project supervisor, Kathy Wilson, field services supervisor, and Jennifer Eisner, customer service supervisor, worked.

Distributing 250 food bags.
Wilson said it was “very rewarding, humbling and great to see kids’ smiling faces,” as families came through the school to receive the packages of food.

“Rewarding and eye opening to see the challenges our communities face,” is how Eisner described the experience. Eisner coordinated We Energies’ participation in the event. “Without volunteers,” she said, “Meals for Minds would not be possible. We were proud to represent We Energies through this life-changing program.”

Meals for Minds is a partnership between Target and Feeding America. Target provides the funding for the program and Feeding America provides the food.