Earlier this week, PNM issued a release touting its contribution to the Good Neighbor Fund program. (AP February 26, 2013.) But PNM's attempt to market a mandatory contribution to the Good Neighbor Fund as a philanthropic move is outrageous. The shareholder contribution of $350,000 to the help fund was compulsory, not a gesture of good will. It was set as a condition of the settlement deal from the latest PNM Rate Increase. Some customers might remember that in 2010, on the heels of rate increases in 2008 and 2009, PNM received permission from its friends at the PRC to raise our electricity rates again by another $60 million dollars a year. Forever. In exchange for that $60 million, they promised to give a mere $350,000 a year to the Good Neighbor Fund for five years. Importantly, the $350,000 shareholders "donated" to the Fund out of its newly gained $60 million simply returns to them in the form of customer payments. It is PNM paying money to PNM.
If there is any altruism going on here it is coming from the hard working New Mexicans who continue to donate to the fund despite their own PNM bills going up and up and up. Meanwhile, PNM shareholders have seen their stocks increase over $10 per share since PNM increased our bills. They continue to bonus their executives with million dollar packages. And we continue to pay for it.
The 2011 U.S. Census states that 21% of New Mexicans live in poverty. That means approximately 100,000 of PNM's customers live at or below the poverty level. While I am extremely happy for the 10,000 families helped by the Good Neighbor Fund, I am extremely concerned about the remaining 90,000 PNM customers who live with the constant threat of disconnection and received no "fund help" assistance from PNM. Payment troubled New Mexicans trying to keep their lights on need real help, not token gestures ordered by the PRC that are literally the minimum the company can do.