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Tuesday, December 25, 2012 / 9:25 AM

‘Tis the Season for Giving—And for Asking

‘Tis the Season for Giving—And for Asking

Laclede Gas Company is asking for a rate increase that would raise an average customer’s bill (the part for delivery of gas) a little less than $5 a month, $4.93 to be exact. This request comes about two months after Laclede requested permission to lower part of the bill (for the cost of the gas itself), which would save consumers about $38 over the winter heating period, November through March. These requests are made to the state Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s utilities.

This is the same PSC that recently approved a $260 million rate increase for Ameren Missouri. While that might seem startling, it could have been worse: Ameren requested a $376 million rate increase. I’d sure dislike living without electricity and heat, so I guess the utilities have the upper hand on me and most Missourians. I don’t want to pay $5 a month more for gas or power, but what choice do I have?

At some point in 2013, residents of the St. Louis region are going to be asked to pay a bit more for something we can live without—but probably don’t want to lose. This item is the St. Louis Rams.

Next month, arbitrators should announce a decision on the future of the Edward Jones Dome. The plan for improvements proposed by the Rams would cost more than $700 million. The Convention and Visitors Commission’s first offer for improving the place was about $125 million—with the Rams paying $64 million. The franchise's lease calls for the team to play in one of the NFL’s “top-tier” stadiums, which would mean it would have one of the best of the 32 NFL teams. The lease also does not require the Rams to pay a dime for improvements.

St. Louis had better get ready for another big ask; we’re going to be asked to help fund dome improvements or to even help finance a new stadium. People are going to immediately freak out and scream “no way.” Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and common ground (and cash) can be found.

There will be other asks in the coming year—both here and nationally.

Outrageous requests have come from the NRA, and even some misguided Missouri legislators, to arm school teachers in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. To avoid that ridiculous proposal, there will be school districts that ask residents to increase taxes to fund armed security personnel in schools. Will the answer be a resounding “no"? This is a rate increase that carries far more importance than improving a football stadium or paying more for gas and heat. It could be one that saves lives.

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