Saturday, March 20, 2010

The "Taxpayer right to vote"

I recently received this email message from the supporters of Prop 16 in California.
Dear California Voter,

In these tough economic times, the best way to hold our elected officials accountable is to stand up for our right to vote on how our money is spent.

Right now, local politicians in California have the power to spend unlimited amounts of public dollars to enter the electricity business – starting, expanding or taking over private electric utilities – without a vote from the people who will have to pay for it.

Taxpayers Right to Vote – Proposition 16 will ensure our right to vote on these important financial decisions. Please join the campaign to advocate for your right to vote.

Proposition 16 does one simple thing: it requires voter approval before local governments can borrow or spend public money to enter the electric utility business. Like most other local special tax and bond decisions in California, this measure requires two-thirds voter approval. A two-thirds vote on electric utility takeovers could protect a generation of taxpayers from crippling financial obligations.
Sound reasonable? Not really. It is sponsored and funded primarily by utility companies that don't want competition from municipal suppliers. But do they make that argument? Of course not. They make it sound like taxpayers are being denied the right to vote on something.

What if we applied this principle to every legislative act? Don't let the legislature enact any statute unless it is approved by 2/3 of the voters. California already has such a provision for taxes—and look at the mess it has caused. Essentially this sort of approach eliminates the standard rule of the majority in favor of the rule of the minority for any changes in the law. It also eliminates the principle of representative democracy in which we elect representatives who have the time to study an issue and make decisions about it. (Although that hasn't worked so well either!) Is that radically conservative enough for you? Basically it means that we freeze our societal structure as it is until it is so dysfunctional that at 2/3 of the voters agree that a change is needed.

San Francisco and other municipalities have just asked the court to take the proposition off the ballot because it is worded so misleadingly.
San Francisco and a group of government-owned utilities from around California took their campaign against a Pacific Gas and Electric Co.-sponsored ballot measure to court Thursday, arguing that Proposition 16 is a power grab dressed up as an expansion of taxpayers' rights. …

In a suit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, San Francisco and other local governments that would be affected by Prop. 16 asked a judge to remove it from the ballot, saying its text is full of falsehoods designed to mislead petition-signers and voters.

For example, the suit said, the measure is titled "The Taxpayers' Right to Vote Act," but it would affect electric rates, not taxes.

The measure's true purpose, lawyers for the local governments said, is "to lock in PG&E's monopoly over its existing service areas," but the text does not refer to that subject or even mention PG&E.

"Despite what its proponents would have us believe, Prop. 16 doesn't help taxpayers and doesn't empower voters - in fact, it does the exact opposite," said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Read more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a right to vote is 1 vote over 50% thee of limited intilect