Consumer advocates vow initiative if Edison bailed out

Published on

The Associated Press

A vocal consumers rights group has teamed up with a consultant from the successful 1978 property tax revolt initiative to try to roll back any bailout of electric utilities approved by the state Legislature.

Bill Lord-Butcher, an Orange County political consultant who has worked for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, has joined with the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumers Rights.

The foundation plans to launch an initiative reminiscent of Proposition 13 – the mail-in initiative that cut property taxes in half and mandated a two-thirds vote of the people to raise local taxes.

Lord-Butcher designed Proposition 13’s campaign, said Harvey Rosenfield of the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumers Rights. When Rosenfield’s group wrote and successfully campaigned for Proposition 103, the 1988 insurance law, they followed the same approach, he said.

Working with Lord-Butcher, the foundation has conducted test mailings for a similar initiative that would try to overturn a bill to let Southern California Edison sell bonds to pay their estimated $3.9 billion in debts. The bonds would be paid back by electricity customers.

Doug Heller, consumer advocate with the foundation, called the test results “phenomenal.

“The public is outraged about how this has affected their bottom line. This is why we’re going with the same people who did Prop. 13. It’s the same issue,” Heller said.

The group will rely on volunteers for the initiative, said Rosenfield, executive director of the foundation.

“You rely on the average angry Californian who works hard and obeys the law and gets stuck with this outrageous rip-off,” he said.

Rosenfield said if lawmakers approve the deal negotiated by Gov. Gray Davis, the foundation would launch the “mother of all initiative battles.” He estimated energy companies and utilities opposed to the initiative will spend more than $100 million to defeat the initiative.

“Let’s face it, there’s billions of dollars at stake here,” Rosenfield said. “They’ll protect their license to steal.”

Heller said the initiative would likely be structured much like the successful 1978 tax revolt. The campaign would mail the initiative and would need have 419,260 registered voters return the forms with signatures to put the initiative on the November 2002 ballot.

The deadline to collect those signatures is June 27, 2002.

Consumer Watchdog
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