Politicians Should Be Held Accountable for Bailout Vote, Say Consumer Advocates

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Sacramento – Consumer advocates said “politicians betrayed the public” by voting for a bailout of Edison, in a key committee Wednesday night. The legislation — SB 78xx (Polanco) would force virtually all businesses in Southern California to pay a “Bailout Tax” to Edison for a decade or longer. The bill would also allow big businesses to exit the utility system and leave residential and small business consumers responsible for the expensive electricity contracts signed by Governor Davis during the height of the state’s energy crisis.

“Every voter in the state should call their Assembly Member and find out if they are voting to bail out Edison,” said Doug Heller, a consumer advocate with The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). “This is a vote worth remembering.”

Virtually all amendments to the proposal taken by the Assembly committee during the previous three days of hearings provide additional benefits to Edison or big businesses, according to FTCR, while virtually all of the proposed consumer protections were rejected. The legislation will cost ratepayers an estimated $4.1 billion (bailout plus interest), yet it fails to repay the public for this bailout. Previously, lawmakers and the Governor suggested that consumers would reap certain benefits from this deal that would compensate ratepayers for this bailout tax.

“This bill is all give and no get for the public. It is an astonishing giveaway of billions of consumer dollars to a single corporation,” said Heller.

Group will continue fight as bill moves toward Assembly floor

FTCR has opened a War Room — a home base for citizen volunteers working to stop the bailout — in Sacramento and will continue the fight against the Edison bailout until the end of the legislative session. Additionally, consumer advocates have vowed to take the issue to the ballot box in 2002, if the bailout legislation is signed by the Governor.

“The energy crisis and the Edison bailout will be a defining issue of the 2002 election, and the ratepayers will revolt against this deal and against the politicians who sign their name to it,” said Heller.

Consumers have been the innocent victims of energy deregulation since its inception, first transferring billions of dollars to the utilities through so-called “transition charges,” then experiencing the largest electricity rate hikes in California history, according to FTCR. Now, if SB 78xx is signed, consumers will be forced to pay bailout taxes both on electric bills and through higher prices from businesses that pass their bailout tax onto consumers, advocates say.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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