Voters will hit the polls in June to find a few hot button initiatives on the ballot, including Proposition 16.
This measure is an attempt to make a Constitutional change to current local government policies regarding expanding electricity services. The proposition would place new voter requirements on local governments seeking to spend public funds to start up or expand electricity service. Public funds include tax revenues, various forms of debt, and ratepayer funds.
For local government owned utility companies and Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs) to expand their services to new areas, a two-thirds voter approval is required to approve the expansion. The measure also requires a two-thirds voter approval for local governments to implement a community choice aggregation–a combination of two electricity service providers for one area.
Although the measure would not have a direct impact on taxpayers, fiscal effects may include additional election costs and varying rates of service. As a result of a two-thirds vote, some local government agencies might not start up or expand a publically-owned utility into a new territory, which may cause varying rates in different territories. Potential state and local government fiscal impacts may include some revenue loss.
Overall, there are no foreseeable significant statewide fiscal effects in the short term. However, critics say long-term fiscal affects may include spending millions of public funds, if approved.
A “yes” vote would require local governments to obtain two-thirds voter approval before starting up or expanding electricity services into new territory. A “no” vote would allow local governments to proceed with electricity service management either through approval of voters or by a governing board.
Mindy Spatt, spokesperson for Taxpayers Against the PG&E Powergrab (No on Prop. 16) campaign says the measure is about more than voters’ rights; it is about corporate power.
“There’s three issues with this proposition,” Spatt explained. “First is that this is a constitutional amendment. PG&E has spent $35 million on Prop. 16. It’s basically PG&E purchasing a constitutional amendment … they’ve high-jacked the voter initiative … we don’t want corporations to decide how we run things.”
She also says the measure would make expansion difficult for existing municipal utilities, which would essentially clear the field for companies like PG&E.
Yes on Prop. 16 campaign, Taxpayers Right to Vote, says the measure gives taxpayers the power to decide how funds are spent. Prop. 16 supporter, Teresa Casazza, president of California Taxpayers’ Association agrees that spending should be approved by citizens.
“The Taxpayers Right to Vote Act ensures that there will be vigorous discussion of any promises made by advocates of government expansion into the electricity business. Remember, the success of a local government program to deliver electricity is far from guaranteed. What happens if the program fails? How will our communities get their electricity then, and at what cost to taxpayers? These questions should be answered before taxpayers’ money is spent, not after,” said Casazza.