Xcel defends executive pay as it seeks rate hike

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Officials at Xcel Energy Inc. are defending the amount of money the Minneapolis-based utility spends on employee compensation.

"We have to compete in the marketplace for good quality employees, so we think it's important that our compensation packages really be pegged to the market average," Regional Vice President Laura McCarten told Minnesota Public Radio. "We understand it's very important for us to control our costs, and to date our costs are below the national average, so I think we've done a pretty good job."

Xcel is requesting a 10.7 percent rate hike that would amount to about $285 million. The Public Utilities Commission granted a 9 percent interim rate increase in December.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce says Xcel should slash $22 million in bonuses for company executives and expensive flights on corporate jets.

The PUC is hosting a series of public hearings, which began Monday. A final decision is expected sometime in September.

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