Here’s a question:

Would you support a measure called the Taxpayers’ Right to Vote Act, a measure that promises to reduce budget deficits and constrain wasteful politicians?

Before you answer, let’s re-phrase the question:

As a consumer, would you vote for a measure designed to protect the PG&E monopoly, even if it means higher prices for electricity and fewer opportunities to develop solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources?

It sounds like a different question, doesn’t it?

In this election, PG&E is spending $46 million to leave voters with the impression that Proposition 16 is all about taxes, budget deficits and out-of-control politicians.

For the record, Proposition 16 would prohibit local agencies from developing their own energy resources without the approval of a two-thirds majority of local voters.

But you’ll have to read the small print in the Yes-on-16 mailers and TV ads to even begin to understand that.

Once upon a time, the initiative process was created to protect consumers from big companies. Now it’s being used to protect the interests of a big company, a company that can afford to spend $46 million on one  ballot measure. It seems like a lot of money until one recalls that it means PG&E would be spared the costs of battling local energy projects one at a time.

Some argue that public policy should guarantee PG&E a reliable stream of customers, but PG&E isn’t bothering with the substance of Proposition 16. It would rather play to people’s distrust of politicians, knowing that the opponents don’t have the money to finance a campaign that plays to people’s distrust of PG&E.

Whether the company succeeds will depend on how many voters come to understand that Proposition 16 relates to PG&E and local energy projects, not Sacramento politicians.

You can read my March 21 column on Proposition 16 by clicking here.

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