BAILOUT WATCH: Keeping an eye on the energy industry and the politicians
Bailout Watch #61 – Jul 27, 2001
Message to lawmakers: Take your vacation (please). The Legislature’s summer recess provides lawmakers with an important opportunity to talk to their constituents and find out what regular folks think of utility bailouts and electricity deregulation. Therefore, it was a relief when, after an unsuccessful last-ditch effort to bail out Edison, Assembly leaders officially packed it up Thursday, belatedly beginning their summer recess. But during the next few weeks, while most of the pols are back in the home district or on vacation, a few will stay in Sacramento and try to hatch another Edison bailout plan. Everybody knows what the Wall Street and energy company lobbyists in Sacramento want (more public money to the utilities). We say: go home, get some sun, talk to some constituents.
Getting in on the gouging. In what should serve as a lesson to bailout-hungry legislators, consumers around the state are already getting a taste of the trickle-down effect that will hit them if bailout taxes are foisted onto businesses. From hairdressers, dry-cleaners and zoos to car-washes, exterminators and soda machines, local businesses are passing their energy costs — plus a "little extra" — onto customers. These electricity surcharges demonstrate the impact of a scheme that would force businesses to bail out Edison–ironically, in the name of sparing the common consumer–since businesses would inevitably pass those costs on to consumers. Whether through surcharges, higher retail costs or higher taxes (both increased sales tax and taxpayer expenditure on energy for public institutions such as schools and hospitals), consumers will bail out the businesses, which will bail out the utilities, which will pay off the power company profiteers. But who will bail out the consumers?
Lights out on extra-curriculars. As Governor Davis moves to sign into law his record $32.5 billion schools budget, educators across the state prepare to "chop programs, halt hiring, and freeze salary increases as they brace for another year of soaring utility bills," according to the Mercury News. With school districts’ electricity payments increasing exponentially over previous years California superintendents view "extras" like counseling staff, art, music and foreign language classes as the expendables that must be pushed aside in order to keep the lights on.
Sushi line item on next month’s utility bill? Under the PUC proposed Rate Agreement (see BW #60) that would transfer critical oversight duties from the transparent PUC to the completely unaccountable Department of Water Resources (DWR), consumer utility bills may soon include an intriguing variety of expenses automatically passed onto ratepayers by the DWR. Among the countless costs that could be tacked onto electric bills, rates may now include such extraneous costs as sushi dinners and Italian takeout. Earlier this year an $11,000 dollar food debt, including the aforementioned international delectables, was charged to the DWR emergency credit card. Amidst the already staggering utility bills the last thing consumers need is a snack charge added to their energy statements.
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466 Days Until November 5, 2002