What the P-I said:
If a government utility discovers it has been underbilling a resident for electricity, the homeowner can expect to pay, perhaps with a bit of extra time. Everyone sympathizes with the homeowner, but no one expects the government to give away something valuable without payment.
The state constitution forbids it, in fact.
A Building Industry Association of Washington program apparently has been receiving state overpayments of millions of dollars. The state’s course should be to get the money back.
Due to a programming error, the BIAW has been reaping retro-rebate overpayments since 1994, and then using the money to back right-wing causes and candidates. And now they argue they should be allowed to keep most of those overpayments because, you know, it wasn’t their fault.
Well fuck that.
BIAW and other retro programs should pay back the entire amount—the first few years worth immediately, and then the remainder deducted from future retro payments over a reasonable term… say, the next five years. This isn’t their money, and they have no right to keep.
Which of course raises a broader issue: this isn’t their money. And particularly now, during this economic crisis, it is time for the legislature to consider reforms that put more of the money back into the pockets of workers and small business owners, where it belongs, rather than into the coffers of partisan political organizations like BIAW.