Congressman Josh Harder, D-Modesto, is finalizing legislation to hit PG&E with new taxes if the company continues to neglect its infrastructure and cause blackouts while paying massive bonuses to its corporate officers.
Harder’s “No Bonuses During Blackouts Act” would revive the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) for utilities that offer executive bonuses but have failed to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure. The bill is being written specifically to target PG&E. The company has not paid federal income taxes in the past decade according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
“We cannot accept blackouts as the new normal. Obviously, weather events are to blame here, but so are the executives at PG&E who have opted to give themselves huge bonuses and pay millions to lobbyists instead of making their infrastructure climate-resilient,” Harder said. “It’s regular people in the Valley and across Northern California who are paying the price. My bill gives PG&E a choice – stop paying your executives bonuses and invest in your infrastructure or take a hit to your bottom line. From my business experience, I can tell you that if I was in this position, I’d stop paying bonuses to people who didn’t earn them and start making investments to save the company and do right by our customers. This isn’t rocket science.”
The No Bonuses During Blackouts Act would require PG&E to pay the AMT if it continues to pay bonuses to its corporate officers and fails to meet a specific set of climate-resiliency mandates while engaging in public safety power shutoffs. The tax was originally established in 1986 and gradually weakened until it was completely eliminated in the 2017 Republican tax bill. Harder is taking the time necessary to ensure the bill only applies to PG&E executives and does not hurt the rank-and-file workers who are bearing the brunt of these blackouts and have become the targets of harassment.
The top eight PG&E executives were paid over $25 million in 2018 according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings. The same executives made over $3.5 million in bonuses over the past three years – categorized in SEC filings as “Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation.” Additionally, the company spent approximately $10 million on lobbying in 2018 alone.
The year 2018 was also when PG&E conceded their aging and poorly maintained equipment started the Butte County fire that virtually wiped out the Town of Paradise, killed 85 people, destroyed 14,000 homes, and burned 5,000 other structures.
Earlier this year, PG&E proposed a $16 million bonus plan for its executives, which was rejected by a bankruptcy judge in August. Harder blasted PG&E this summer over the proposal. The company still has the option to file a new request for permission to increase executive bonuses. Last week, PG&E’s CEO Bill Johnson refused to commit to abandoning efforts to offer a new bonus plan for executives.