Proposition not-so-sweet 16

 Proposition 16, misleadingly titled the Taxpayers Right to Vote Act, is–to put it quite frankly–a terrible initiative on California’s 2010 ballot propositions.

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By Sonja Eide / Asst. Opinions Editor

Glitter not gold (Sade Hurst / Opinions Editor)

By Sonja Eide / Asst. Opinions Editor

Proposition 16, misleadingly titled the Taxpayers Right to Vote Act, is–to put it quite frankly–a terrible initiative on California’s 2010 ballot propositions.

If the measure is passed, local governments would be required to get a two-thirds voter approval before providing electricity service to new customers using public funds.

Why shouldn’t the public have knowledge of where the money they give the government goes?

The truth of the matter is the supporters of this initiative have ulterior motives. To fully understand what kind of effects this measure would produce, one must know the background of California’s electricity providers.

Californians most likely get their electricity from one of three service providers: investor owned utilities (called an IOU) which provide electricity for profit, publicly owned electric utilities, which are based locally, or from electric service providers (ESPs), which supply to customers who choose not to get their electricity from either of the first two options.

IOUs provide the largest amount of electricity, about 68 percent, in the state.

Their rates and how they provide service to customers must be regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, unlike public electricity utilities, which don’t need to be regulated.

Community Choice Aggregation is an option that is gaining support throughout the state.

A city and/or county can choose to provide electricity to their area by signing a contract with an electric service provider.

All customers in that area would automatically get their electricity from that provider, unless they elected otherwise.

Only one aggregation exists in the state as of now, but many communities are exploring the possibility of this option, which could pose a threat to investor-owned utilities because an aggregation’s services cost the consumer considerably less.

Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the biggest investor owned utilities in the state of California, is the sole sponsor of the “yes on Prop 16” campaign.

To date they have donated $34.5 million in support of the measure. It is no wonder why: they are protecting their interests.

By forcing local governments to get a majority vote in order to provide electricity service to new customers or create a choice program like an aggregation, it greatly hinders the chances of local governments being able to get approval or even attempt to try.

Approval of this proposition would enormously limit the population’s choice of who they would be able to get their source of electricity from.

Proposition 16 is merely a disguise, a thinly veiled way for PG&E to ensure their monopoly continues to thrive and stamp out competition. The company has already requested to raise rates.

If granted this request, by 2013, their prices will be up by 30 percent.

Were this proposal to become a law, it would mean bad news for everyone. With so many financial problems already plaguing us, how will the population of California be able to afford paying an extra $400 on their electric bill every year?

Local electric utilities are less costly for their customers and run more efficiently than an electric giant like Pacific Gas & Electric.

They even generate a profit while keeping the money within the community.

Companies like PG&E charge their customers more for service that consistently falls short of the quality that a publicly owned utility can provide.

Requiring a two-thirds vote means putting state projects on hold as well as having a special election. Both are a waste of money and time.

In addition to the lower cost, state law also requires that utilities have at least 20 percent of energy come from renewable sources by the end of 2010.

PG&E only had 12 percent renewable energy in 2008, while Marin Energy Authority, an aggregation, is on its way to 25 percent.

Proposition 16 support might try to make you believe that you are exercising your right to choose with its tricky wording, but do not let yourself be deceived.

This initiative means less choices and more money out of your pocket, and is merely a disgusting attempt by a giant corporation to tighten its choke hold on California.

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