Prop 16 – “The Taxpayers Right to Vote” and How to Play Monopoly

By Scott Gordon
Vice President, Residential Sales, HelioPower

With the June 8th election fast approaching in California, the political ads are flying fast and furious. One television ad that seems to be getting a lot of airtime espouses the virtues of Proposition 16. On the surface, the tenets of Prop 16 sound reasonable enough. The measure would require voters to approve any municipality’s plan to launch a new public utility district in California. Rather than a simple majority, Prop 16 will require a difficult to attain two-thirds majority vote before local governments could launch a new public utility or expand an existing one. There are currently 48 ‘munis’ in California.

In case you’re unfamiliar with what a public utility district or ‘muni’ is, let me give you some examples: Anaheim Public Utility, SMUD, IID, Pasadena Water & Power, LADWP, Etc are all public utilities. If you happen to live in a public utility, you enjoy some of the lowest fixed energy rates in California. Currently public utility customers enjoy significantly lower electricity rates than their neighbors in the large investor owned utilities. They also enjoy some of the largest rebates for solar and other self generation technologies. Thus, it seems that creating additional municipal utilities would be a great thing for California consumers, so who would aim to block the creation of such beneficial public agencies and why would they put forth a nearly impossible two-thirds majority vote requirement?

If you follow the money, the trail will lead you directly to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). In fact, PG&E’s Board approved $35 million to push Prop 16. John Geesman, California’s former Energy Commissioner from 2002 – 2008, recently wrote in his blog, “California’s investor owned utilities face a Himalayan task in modernizing our electricity system and building the infrastructure necessary to serve a growing economy. They ought to focus on that, rather than manipulating the electorate to kneecap their few competitors.” In all fairness to Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), who would also benefit from a law all but guaranteeing their monopolies, these two investor owned utilities have taken a neutral stance on Prop 16.

Why is Prop 16 bad for consumers? First, it eliminates competition. Less competition almost always means higher prices. Second, it’s sponsored by a big utility whose sole interest is maintaining its monopoly. Third, it fails to properly grandfather the existing municipal utilities properly making all new electrical connections in those service areas subject to a two-thirds majority vote. Fourth, the name itself: “Taxpayers Right to Vote” is intentionally misleading and who likes to be intentionally misled? Besides, last time I checked, I already had the right to vote.

So, when you find yourself in the voter’s booth on June 8th, ask yourself who benefits most from Prop 16, PG&E or municipal utilities trying to offer their citizens lower electricity rates?  I think we all can agree that the only “monopoly” worth saving is the one made by Hasbro.

You can find out more about Prop 16 by visiting:

You can reach Scott Gordon at [email protected]