State Treasurer John Perdue says a moratorium needs to be placed on utility rate increases for customers of Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power in West Virginia.
"These bills just keep going up and up," Perdue, a Democrat gubernatorial candidate, said on Wednesday's MetroNews Talkline.
"I think it's one of the most important issues in this election, that our people are suffering. Our small businesses are suffering and, if we want economic development, let's all work together."
Perdue is calling on Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to order the state Public Service Commission to halt any pending rate increases while looking at ways to rollback what residents are already paying.
On April first, the rates for customers of Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power will go up 7%. The companies have already requested another 8.9% increase that, if approved, could take effect earlier this year.
Company officials have said the rate increases should come as no surprise and are necessary to cover higher costs for coal, pay for environmental upgrades and make changes at a Kanawha County power plant.
Those officials say years have gone by without increases for such operating expenses.
Perdue, though, claims part of the extra money West Virginians will pay will make up for the millions of dollars that are being refunded to power customers in Ohio.
"If they are in the business of making money, I want them to make money but I don't want them ripping off our citizens, our people, our customers with high utility rates that they can't afford," he said.
It is not clear if the Acting Governor can actually order the state Public Service Commission to do anything since the Commission operates independently.
Perdue is one of six Democrat candidates running in the May 14th Primary Election. Eight Republicans are also in the race.