Commissioner vows gas-rate review<BR>

"The terrible budget mess" and the fact that there are two open seats in the state House are the two main reasons McClain decided to run for the Legislature this year, she said.

"I have an accounting background.

Those abilities would enable me to be of service to the state in getting it straightened out," she said.

Although she does not have an accounting degree, McClain added, she has eight years' experience working for an accounting business and has managed the financial aspects of her and her husband's janitorial business.

Rep.

Bill Wagner's decision to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen.

Linda Binder, R-Lake Havasu City, was also a big factor in her decision.

Wagner is a Republican from Bullhead City.

McClain became politically active in southern California in 1989, she said.

She served as treasurer of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee and secretary of the Victor Valley Republican Club and Victor Valley Republican Women's Club.

In Arizona, McClain has served as president of the Colorado River Republican Women's Club for two years and is the secretary of the Mohave County Republican Central Committee.

She recently resigned as the Republican Party's District 2 director.

McClain considers herself both a fiscal and social conservative.

"Government tends to try to do too much," she said.

She believes the main responsibility of government is to make sure people have the opportunity to provide for themselves.

McClain does not support civil union or domestic partnership rights for same-sex couples.

"Inheritance rights can be done through wills or trusts," she said, noting one example of how homosexual couples can legally provide for one another.

McClain supports efforts to enact a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions through "informed consent" legislation.

An informed consent bill recently passed the Legislature with bipartisan support but was vetoed by Gov.

Janet Napolitano.

On illegal immigration, McClain said she leans toward supporting a bill that would prevent Arizona from accepting as identification a driver's license from another state if that state didn't require the driver to provide proof of U.S.

residency.

McClain does not favor a new map drawn by the State Independent Redistricting Commission at the order of a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.

The map would split three Mohave County into three districts.

Under the new plan, Bullhead City would be included in a district that includes the Hualapai Mountains, Golden Valley, Mohave Valley, most of Lake Havasu City, and Flagstaff.

The issue of which district will be used for the September primary and November general elections likely will be decided by a three-judge federal panel, Napolitano told the Miner on Thursday.

McClain is the second Mohave County resident to file campaign finance paperwork with the Secretary of State's office to run for state representative.

Lake Havasu City Realtor John C.

Stacey was the first to file.

Stacey has not returned a Miner phone call seeking information on his candidacy.

The chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission wants to take a second look at gas surcharges and high heating bills faced by Northern Arizona customers.

"I want the surcharge for natural gas delivered by UniSource Energy Systems to be gone by November," commission chairman Mark Spitzer said.

"I realize most of the high winter usage has already occurred for this season and we do not want people to have the same experiences next winter."

Spitzer also defended his opposition to a previous surcharge holiday, which extended the time for the company to recoup a $37 million jump in wholesale gas costs in 2000.

The surcharge had been granted to Citizens Arizona Gas, which was acquired by UniSource in August.

"Market conditions projected at the time changed and gas went higher," he said.

"That pushed the collection of the final $8 million too far into the future and we are still dealing with it."

At the time the surcharge holiday was approved, wholesale gas prices were below 3 cents per therm, the measure of volume of gas used by customers.

It increased soon thereafter.

"We now see gas at in the 4- to 5-cent range and expect that to continue into the foreseeable future," Spitzer said.

Unlike electric prices, natural gas purchases reflect a volatile and sometimes rapidly changing price structure.

UniSource has a set price for electricity purchased from Pinnacle West/Arizona Public Service on contract through 2007.

The electric charges to UniSource Energy Services customer are based on that stable figure.

Natural gas is not purchased on such a contract, although UniSource does contract well into the future to stabilize prices.

The household user of natural gas pays a base rate for service and a portion of the gas used, plus an adjustment that reflects the monthly change in wholesale gas prices.

The bills also include the surcharge to recover costs from the spike in natural gas prices during the winter of 2000-01.

Joe Salkowski, UniSource communications director, said the average Kingman area customer used 96 therms in January 2004.

That level of use was billed in at $103.05.

Under the previous winter's rates and gas prices, the bill would have been $56.76.

The $46.29 difference is divided between the base-rate increase granted by the Corporation Commission in September, the increased cost of wholesale natural gas passed through to the customer, and the 11.5 cent per therm surcharge for 96 therms or a total of $10.94.

Customers with high natural gas bills are being offered immediate budget billing by UniSource Energy Services.

Customers pay an average rate based on their previous 12 months of gas use.

"We are encouraging customers having problems paying high January bills to sign up for budget billing now, " Salkowski said.

"That will let them know what the gas bill would be each month."

He said the program also is offered to electric customers, which helps reduce air conditioning costs.